10 Spooktacular Activities for Your Little One

Halloween is upon us!  In the midst of decorating pumpkins and finding the perfect costumes, there are several activities you can do at home to work on your child’s development while celebrating this “spooktacular” season.

1. Visit a Pumpkin Patch:  There are lots of pumpkin patches this time of year.  Find one that is kid friendly.  Let your child pick out their pumpkin and decorate it.  You can paint the pumpkin, use stickers or markers to make faces and have fun!  Targeted skills:  motor and sensory coordination, language development and cognitive skills.

2. Squishy Pumpkins:  Find some orange hair gel.  Put the gel in a Ziploc bag (make sure it’s taped tightly closed).  Draw a pumpkin face on the outside of the bag.  Encourage your child to “squish” the pumpkin.  How does it feel?  Talk about the way it squishes and moves.  Use your fingers to draw designs.  Targeted Skills:  visual, motor and language stimulation.

3. Pumpkin Toss:  Find a large pumpkin basket or bucket.  Encourage your child to toss bean bags or balls into the pumpkin.  Targeted skills:  motor skills, body awareness and hand-eye coordination.

4. Dress Up Fun:  Gather some old Halloween costumes and let your child play dress-up.  Putting on different clothes and accessories is fun and works on a variety of skills!  Targeted skills:  self-help (dressing), language development, sequencing and motor coordination.

5. Leaf Painting:  The leaves are already starting to change colors and fall to the ground.  Why not take advantage?  Have the kids pick 5-10 different kinds of leaves that they really like.  Grab some thick paper and washable paints.  They’ll have a blast unleashing their creativity.  Targeted skills:  motor coordination, sensory skills and language development.

6. Leafy Fun:  If you have a ton of trees in your yard, enlist your kids to help.  They won’t even know they’re doing chores.  Rake the leaves in piles, let them have a hay day, jumping and rolling.  Then just before it’s time to head inside, bring out the bags and stuff the bags to make scarecrows. Targeted skills:  body awareness, balance, motor coordination and language development. 

7.  Make a Scarecrow: Find some old clothes: jeans, long sleeve shirt (flannel shirt if you can). Grab some of those twist ties that you never use (if you don’t have those then rubber bands will work too). Fill the jeans and the shirt separately, tying off the openings. Sit the scarecrow on the porch, adjusting the pieces as necessary. For the head, use an old pillowcase—draw a face on it and put a hat on top. Targeted skills:  sequencing, motor coordination, language development and dressing.

8. Time to Bake:  Kids love to get involved in the baking process.   Cracking of the eggs, stirring the mix, and of course, licking the bowl.  Invite your child into the kitchen and see what fun evolves!  Targeted skills:  cognitive, sequencing, math, motor skills and language development.

9. Down and Dirty: Fall is a great time for gardening, Put on some old clothes and spend some time digging in the yard and planting some seeds.  Targeted skills:  cognitive, language development and motor skills.

10.  Pumpkin Ball:  Find an orange ball and draw on a pumpkin face. Encourage your child to roll, throw and kick the “pumpkin.”  Targeted skills:  motor coordination, balance, language stimulation and body awareness.
All these activities are fun for the whole family and can easily be adapted to fit your child’s needs.

Now It’s Your Turn:  What fall activities do you like to do with your child?   

5 Activities for Pumpkin Fun

Fall is my favorite time of year.  One great thing about fall is that there are so many fun things to do with pumpkins to encourage your child’s learning and development.

1.   Pick a Pumpkin – Visit one of the local pumpkin patches.  Encourage your child to pick out and decorate their own pumpkin.  As you look at the different pumpkins, talk about the shapes and colors.  Which one is bigger?  Which one is short?

2.   Pumpkin Sorting  – Gather several pumpkins of different sizes.  Encourage your child to “sort” the pumpkins from smallest to largest.  Next, gather other fall items (leaves, gourds, etc.) and encourage your child to sort the items into 2 groups – those that are pumpkins and those that aren’t.   For older kids, you could also make patterns with objects (pumpkin, leaf, gourd, pumpkin, etc.) and ask your child, “What comes next?”

3.   Sensory Pumpkin  (requires adult supervision) – Have an adult cut off the top of the pumpkin.  Encourage your child to smell the pumpkin and then use a spoon to scoop out the inside.  Talk about what they see and feel.  How does it feel?  Is it cold? Squishy?  Hard?  For older children, talk about the different senses and how we learn about things using all of our senses.

4.  Pumpkin Art – Wash and dry the pumpkin seeds and then encourage your child to make an art project.  They can glue the seeds onto a paper pumpkin, make a mosaic with other seeds and fall objects, etc.

5.  Pumpkin Snack  (requires adult supervision) – Roast the pumpkin seeds and serve them as a snack.  For some delicious pumpkin treats, use canned pumpkin puree to make pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin cookies, etc.  Invite your child to help you in the kitchen while baking – it’s a great activity to work on sequencing and math skills!

Don’t forget to have fun!

10 Reasons to Step Up for Down Syndrome

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month.  Many organizations across the United States will be hosting walks and events to raise awareness and support for those with Down syndrome in their community.  In Memphis, we will Step Up for Down Syndrome on Sunday, October 21 at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.

There are many reasons why you should Step Up for Down Syndrome in your community:

1.  By attending these events, you are showing your love and support for those with Down syndrome and their families. You are advocating for the acceptance and inclusion of EVERYONE in your community.

2.  It doesn’t cost a lot of money – $10 to show your support and you get a t-shirt and food!

3.  These organizations are mostly non-profits.  The money raised goes towards the cost of running these organizations and to fund programs and workshops in your community.

4.  You’ll see and meet some very talented children and adults with Down syndrome.  At the Memphis event, there is a wonderful talent show each year.

5.  It’s a fun family day.  In Memphis, there are children’s games, face painting, wonderful food and lots of great music!

6.  You can check out the ABILITIES of children and adults with Down syndrome in your community by visiting the Imagine the PossABILITIES tent showcasing all their wonderful achievements.

7.  You’ll be able to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful scenery – especially at the Memphis Botanic Gardens.

8.  Take some time to visit the Resource Tables.  You’ll be able to learn more about the different agencies and the services offered in your community.

9.  Form or join a team.  You’ll spend some fun, quality time with your friends and family while helping others at the same time!

10.  You will learn that we are all more alike than we are different. Each person at these events has a story to tell and a dream to share.  Please join us and let’s celebrate the possibilities!

For more information about the walk in Memphis, please visit DSAM.

To find an event near you, please visit the the National Down Syndrome Society.

Down Syndrome Awareness

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month!  There are many things you can do to support individuals with Down syndrome in your community and around the world.

Be Respectful
:   Use positive language while talking about those with Down syndrome and others with special needs.  These individuals are children and adults with Down syndrome, not “Down’s kids” or a “Down syndrome child.” Don’t be afraid to share the message with others and encourage them to be respectful as well.  Know the facts while talking about Down syndrome:

  1. Down syndrome is a genetic condition which occurs in 1 of every 691 live births.
  2. Children and adults with Down syndrome have 47 chromosomes instead of 46.
  3. Down syndrome is not related to race, nationality, religion or socioeconomic status.
  4. Children and adults with Down syndrome are more like those without Down syndrome than they are different.

Be Inclusive:    Individuals with Down syndrome do experience developmental delays, but they also have talents and gifts to share with others and should be given every opportunity and encouragement to do so.  Most children attend schools in their neighborhood, some in regular classes and some in special education.  Some adults with Down syndrome attend post-secondary education, volunteer and work in the community.

Many children and adults with Down syndrome play musical instruments and enjoy drawing and painting. Children and adults with Down syndrome participate on athletic teams, either with the Special Olympics or on integrated teams at school and in the community.  They have close friendships with others and may have boyfriends or girlfriends as well.

Be Supportive:  When you see adults with Down syndrome working in the community, support them and the business they are working for.  Support your local organizations providing services for these families and children.  In Memphis, the Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South (DSAM) provides many workshops for parents and educators throughout the year.  There are many Down syndrome associations across the United States and the world.  Most of these organizations are non-profits and function on private grants and funding.  Offer your support financially or by volunteering at their many events.

Be Involved: Support legislation and organizations to provide accurate information about Down syndrome to others. With the advancements of prenatal testing, expectant mothers are learning whether or not their baby has Down syndrome in the first trimester.  According to recent studies, 92% of women worldwide choose to terminate their pregnancy when they receive a definitive prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.  Dr. Brian Skotko and his associates have completed several studies about Down syndrome and you can follow his blog to learn more.

One of the most important things to know about Down syndrome is that each child and adult with Down syndrome is an individual – with their own unique personality, hopes, dreams and talents.

There are many different ways you can support children and adults with Down syndrome throughout your community.  To learn more, visit your local Down syndrome association or contact the following agencies:

National Down Syndrome Congress

National Association for Down Syndrome

National Down Syndrome Society

Down Syndrome Association of Memphis and the Mid-South

Now It’s Your Turn:  What are you doing to support those with Down syndrome and their families?