Toys and Adaptive Play
To keep our 14 month old daughter from rolling away from her feeding pump or getting into a dangerous situation, I bought a small $5.00 inflatable swimming pool. We put her in it on a blanket with some toys - no more fears of pulling her G-tube out or knocking her pump over. - C.S., North Delta, B.C.
My son, age 7 years, has athetoid cerebral palsy. His constant motion and poor motor planning make it difficult for him to play with toys on his wheelchair tray without them constantly falling. So, I bought two clipboards from an office supply store and covered the back of them with black velcro (the strongest type). I flip the clipboards over and clip them onto the left and right sides of his tray. I did affix a strip of velcro at the bottom ends of the clipboards to attach the two clipboards together. I have put velcro on the bottoms of just about everything you can think of and now he can play with toys, books, items he wants, switches, and joysticks, without them falling onto the floor. - A.C., Lafayette, LA
When you have a child with limited abilities, you tend to buy or receive toys that require batteries. Well, after awhile, you end up putting the toy in a corner because the batteries have died. So, when I have people asking me "What can I get Brenda for her birthday or Christmas?" I respond by suggesting a large package of batteries and letting them know what size. They usually respond by saying that's no fun. But you remind them that your child has not played with a particular toy for quite awhile and they will consider it a new toy. Plus, you save on space and have one less toy to stumble over. That is what I call recycling! - C.B., Aurora, CO
My husband is an avid "hobby" train collector and has always involved my daughter in his "tinkering." As a special Christmas present one year, he built her a small set-up of her own. He placed it on a 3' by 3' piece of plywood, backed with felt, and glued the tracks and a few houses, animals, people, trees and things around it. It is operated with a simple switch. She not only loves controlling her own trains, but also the attention it attracts from her sisters, other family members, and friends. - V.A., Monson, MA
I made a table-top "splat mat" for my daughter, which she uses on her wheelchair tray. Simply get a gallon size Ziploc bag (not with the sliders, as they leak), fill about 1/3 with water and add small colorful beads, marbles, beans, etc., and zip shut. When they hit it, the objects fly around the water and the whole bag sloshes... its visual and tactile at the same time. Simply empty the water when finished and refill when you're ready to go again! - J.F., Triangle, VA
Every kid likes sandboxes. But Moms will like them even better when their kids don't sit in the sand. Just place the heavy plastic sandbox on top of cement blocks. Now, kids can stand at the sandbox instead of sitting. Also, be sure to cover the sandbox when not in use, to prevent animals from getting into the sand. - C.S., Portersville, PA
My son likes to play with gooey stuff on his tray, but he is always putting his face down. So, I got a tip from my grandma (who has watched my cousins for so long - one of them eats everything). She would take yogurt and put food coloring in it. She would use it for finger painting, but it is great for my son, Eric, because it is gooey and if he happens to get it in his mouth, it wont hurt him... he even likes the taste sometimes. - J.F., Lincoln, NE
My daughter, Hannah, can sit independently but can't get into a toy box to select her own toys. She also had a goal at school to take items out of a container. I bought a cheap stackable bin from the Dollar Store. It stands about two inches off the floor and has three sides with the front open so she can reach right in and choose whatever she wants. She has gotten very good at taking things out (we call it taking inventory) and now are working at putting them back in. We made her toys accessible and met a goal, all at the same time. - M.J., Georgetown, KY
My 3 year old daughter has cerebral palsy and has a hard time lifting her hands high enough to hit her toys and usually knocks them to the side or onto the floor. So, I started putting Rubbermaid shelf lining on her trays. It's inexpensive and comes in lots of colors. It is strong enough to hold the toys in-place and helps her succeed. - T.T., Freemont, NE
Small, soft rubber puppy toys are great for kids. They have interesting textures, fun colors, sometimes make noise, are easily washable, and kids can't really rip them apart. Of course, you still have to supervise playtime as with any other toys. - C.B., New Orleans, LA
With summer and warm weather approaching, children with severe disabilities can join their peers in a water gun fight with "Shout n Shoot." This is an off-the-shelf toy available at Toys R Us (other stores I'm sure) that is worn on the head and is activated by sound. A simple "uh" or any other sound will do it. It's a fun toy that allows a child to be included. For those living in Nassau/Suffolk county, U.C.P. Toy Lending Library has it available for loan. - S.R., Massapequa, NY
Does your child use a walker to ambulate? Little kids like to carry "stuff" everywhere. When you need your hands to walk, you can't carry your stuff. This can be very annoying to a child! My 7 year old came up with this idea for her little sister, who uses a walker and wanted her Pocahontas doll with her at all times. Buy an inexpensive bicycle basket and use plastic ties to secure it to the walker. We were amazed at the independence this gave our daughter (and by the things she toted around with her - like the cat!). We change the baskets frequently to "dress-up" her walker and she loves to pick out a new one every few months. They work so much better then those expensive walker carry-all bags because she can reach her things without digging. It has also turned out to be a great conversation piece with the other little kids she meets! - N.I., Mayfield, KY
Go to Radio Shack and buy their switch made for stenographers to start and stop a tape recorder. If the radio switch requires too much pressure for your child to activate, you can slide out the metal pin and remove the spring. It will then require less pressure to activate. Also the switches come in different plug sizes. Radio Shack calls the switches Remote Pedal Switches. - J.K., Phoenix, AZ
Adam, my son, loves electric toys and computer games. He has severe CP. To activate a battery interrupter or make a mouse "click" on the computer, requires a simple push switch. The "helpful" special needs companies charge $50+ for these. Go to Radio Shack and buy their switch made for stenographers to start and stop a tape recorder. It has a mini end on it, so you may have to also buy a 1/8 inch adapter which they stock. You will have an indestructible switch for about 6 bucks. - D.O., Conroe, TX
My son (now age 22) has cerebral palsy and severe visual impairment. One of his favorite toys has always been a survival blanket, available very cheaply from camping stores. Its a large sheet of foil which can be rolled on, scrunched, used to reflect lights, made into a tent, and when made into strips, tied around the garden to encourage walking!! It shouldn't be used unsupervised, but its a very cost-effective toy. - M.L., Wiltshire, UK
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