5 Tips for Playtime



As adults, we sometimes forget what it was like to be a kid.  It’s important to spend time playing with your child.  Some of us may need some guidance in how to “play.”  Here are 5 tips for playtime with your child:

1.  Be silly.  Don’t be afraid to make funny faces or act goofy.  Your child will love it and you’ll probably hear some laughs and giggles.

2.  Follow their lead.  Most children will make choices and show you what they want to play.  If they want to play cars, play cars.  If they want to play blocks, start building a tower.  Following their lead will show them that you care about them and their interests.

3.  Get down on their level.  If you are physically able to, sit on the floor with your child.  If you can’t get on the floor, then adapt your play to the table or couch. Children will play everywhere and anywhere, but it’s important to be able to be on their eye level and be truly engaged with them.

4.  Talk about what you and your child are doing.  While playing, there is a lot of language stimulation happening.  Don’t forget to talk and use language while playing.  Each toy and activity has its own vocabulary words.  For example, think about how many words are used while playing blocks.  Words like “on top, block, fall down, uh-oh, so big, big tower, big block, little block, etc.”  You are using a lot descriptive words and building your child’s language skills.

5.  Take turns.  It’s important for kids to play with others.  This builds social skills and peer interactions.  While playing, use words like “my turn, your turn” and “may I play?” to assist your child when they play with others.

Take some time to play with your child.  You both will benefit from playing together.  They will learn so much from you.  You will not only learn about what a cool kid you have, but you will be reinforcing and establishing a positive relationship with them – one they’ll remember well beyond their childhood years. Oh – and don’t forget to have fun!

Now It’s Your Turn:  What’s your favorite game or toy to play with your child?

Do’s and Don’ts for Protecting Your Child’s Joints


Written By:  Hannah Taylor, DPT
Brightsong, LLC Physical Therapist

Joint protection is important for children in order to prevent damage to their growing bones.  A joint is defined as the point where 2 bones are attached in order to permit body parts to move.  So, joints include the elbow, wrist, etc.   Here are some tips to protect your child’s joints.


  • Don’t pull on your child’s arms when assisting them from lying flat on their back to sitting.
  • Don’t swing your child by his or her arms, this can cause shoulder or elbow dislocation.
  • Do use proper hand placement to assist your child to sitting from lying flat or side lying (i.e. place hands behind head, back or on hips).
  • Do hold your child at their waist or trunk when lifting them up from surface or ground.


  • Don’t allow “W” sitting (i.e. when child sits on floor and knees are bent and out to either side of body).  “W” sitting places increased pressure and stretching on hips, knees and ankles.
  • Don’t pull on their legs, knees or ankles aggressively during dressing or play to prevent hip or knee dislocation.
  • Do provide good support of ankles and feet with proper shoe wear.
  • Do encourage proper sitting habits and posture.
  • Do monitor your child’s hips, knees and ankles in standing.  Are their knees hyperextended? Do their legs rotate in or out?
  • Do call your doctor if your child complains of pain in joints.


  • Don’t allow your child to participate in high impact sports activities or intense jumping without asking their doctor. This is especially true for children with Down syndrome – they are at risk for increased laxity in neck and vertebrae.
  • Do provide proper seating positions for your child. Make sure that chair is appropriate height for child; if needed place small stool or stack of books under child’s feet for proper support.

With proper care, we can help ensure that your child’s joints are protected in order to promote good growth and development. If your child complains about joint pain or if you have concerns about their posture, gait, balance or coordination – please talk to your child’s pediatrician.  They might need to see a physical therapist for an evaluation.

Why We Love Puzzles


I just found out that today is National Puzzle Day.  Who knew?   Puzzles are fabulous toys for every child.  Be sure to look for puzzles made of good quality and try to find some with pictures that look as realistic as possible.  There are a lot of developmental skills you can work on while playing with puzzles.

1.  Fine Motor Skills – Getting those puzzle pieces to fit exactly right takes a lot of concentration and fine motor skills.  Holding the little knobs (if there is one) is a great way to work on using a pincer grasp.  Bigger knobs work on holding objects with your palm and whole hand.  Some puzzles are inset puzzles, others are interlocking puzzles.  There are puzzles with fun textures and some with locks, latches and doors.  All of these require different fine motor skills and strategies.

2.  Visual Processing – Looking at the puzzle pieces and trying to figure out how to make them fit takes a lot of hand-eye coordination and visual processing skills.

3.  Cognitive Skills – Puzzles are great to work on matching pictures and following directions.  You can also work on identifying, matching and naming colors, shapes, numbers and letters.

4.  Speech and Language Skills –  Not only are puzzles great to work on naming pictures, but you can also encourage your child to request objects.  Hold the puzzle pieces in your lap and encourage your child to request which piece they want by signing or saying, “more.”  For older children, you can work on using the phrase, “I want + object name”  (e.g. “I want cat, I want blue circle, etc”) to request the desired puzzle piece.  Some puzzles make sounds when you place the pieces on the board – this is a great way to encourage your child to imitate sounds and talk about what they see and hear.

5.  Gross Motor Skills – You might be wondering how puzzles can work on gross motor skills, but they can be a great for encouraging motor skills.  For younger kids, place the puzzle board on top of your couch, chair or coffee table.  Then, place the puzzle pieces on the floor.  Your child will have to bend and squat down to pick up the puzzle pieces and then place them in the correct spot.  For older kids, place the puzzle pieces across the room.  Encourage your child to walk, run, hop, jump, skip, crawl, etc. across the room to pick up the puzzle pieces one at a time and then bring them back.  You could even develop an obstacle course for them to go through to bring back the pieces.  These activities are great for encouraging gross motor movements and motor planning skills.

Puzzles can be a lot of fun and they work on so many great developmental skills.  So, grab a puzzle and your child and have some fun!


Now It’s Your Turn:  Does your child have a favorite puzzle?  If so, tell us about it. 


Meeting Santa

Santa and Boy
Santa Claus is a special guy, but meeting Santa can be overwhelming for some children. Before you visit Santa, tell your children the history of Santa to prepare them ahead of time.

Saint Nicholas was born a long time ago.  He traveled around the country giving gifts and helping the poor and the sick.  Santa Claus has many names around the world.  Some call him St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Father Christmas.

In the United States, Santa Claus is known as a chubby man with a white beard and red suit.  This description of Santa is based on a story called “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore.   When Mr. Moore met Santa that night, he learned a few things:

  • Santa Claus understands that many children may be scared to sit on his lap and tell them what they want for Christmas.  That’s okay.  You do not have to sit on Santa’s lap.  You can give him a handshake or a high five – he’d like that.
  • If you don’t want to meet Santa by yourself, a parent, sibling or friend can go with you.
  • If you don’t want to talk to Santa – that’s okay.  You can write a list or draw some pictures to give to Santa.
  • You can ask your parents to call (951) 262-3062 and you can leave a message on Santa’s answering machine.
  • Santa likes to give gifts because it makes people happy and he feels good afterwards.  The holidays are a time for giving and it’s important that we share and give to others – just like Santa Claus.

Meeting Santa for the first time is a special day.  By preparing your child ahead of time, you can avoid some of the uneasiness and fear your child may experience.  If your child becomes upset while visiting the Santa at the mall, find him at another location without so many other people around.   The most important thing is to have a positive experience so you and your child can enjoy this wonderful holiday tradition.


The History of Santa Claus

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas


Our Favorite Toys

As therapists and teachers, we are asked all the time, “what toy should I get for my child?”  There are so many toys on the market – it can be overwhelming.  The most important thing to remember is that any toy can be adapted for your child.   Playing and spending time with your child is the best thing for their development and in actuality – YOU are your child’s best toy.

With the holidays upon us, the Brightsong team has developed a list of our favorite toys from birth to elementary school ages.  All of these toys can be found at your local toy store or online.  We hope you and your child enjoy these toys as much as we do.  Have fun!

The Brightsong Team

Now It’s Your Turn:  What’s your child’s favorite toy? 

Disclosure of Material Connection: The above links are for informational purposes only. Brightsong, LLC does not receive a commission on any of the products reviewed or listed. The Brightsong team only recommends products or services we personally use and believe will add value to the families we work with. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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.

3 Types of Evaluations and What They Tell Us about Your Child’s Development

When you have concerns about your child’s development, you want answers.  You might choose to have a screening completed to briefly assess your child’s development. If concerns are noted following the screening, a formal evaluation will help answer your questions.

During the evaluation, the pediatric professional will ask questions about your child’s birth history, health history, daily activities, current skills and challenges. There are several types of evaluation protocols available, but most often therapists combine evaluation tools to gather more information and to look at your child as a whole.

The 3 most common types of evaluation tools used by therapists include:

1. Clinical Observations – Therapists will observe your child as he or she plays with toys and interacts with others.  These observations tell therapists about your child’s play skills and social interactions.

2. Questionnaires and Checklists – These tools are used to gather more detailed information.  Parents may be the ones to complete these forms or therapists may go through the questions with the parents during the evaluation.

3. Standardized Testing – Most therapists will also use a standardized test to assess your child’s development.  These standardized tests are administered and scored in a consistent manner by all therapists.  The results of the standardized tests show a relative degree of validity and reliability – which means that if others administer the same test to your child, they would get about the same score.  The scores gathered from these tests are based on score samples of typically developing peers.

So, what exactly are therapists looking for when they assess your child?  This all depends on their specialty area and your concerns.

Physical Therapy:  The PT (physical therapist) will look at your child’s ability to use their large muscle groups, aka “gross motor skills.”  They assess your child’s ability to move and explore their environment.  They also look at their balance and coordination, body awareness, range of motion, strength, endurance, etc.

Occupational Therapy:  The OT (occupational therapist) will assess your child’s small muscle groups, aka “fine motor skills.”  They will also look at your child’s sensory processing skills, motor coordination, visual and perceptual skills, self-help, feeding skills and handwriting.

Speech Therapy:  The SLP (speech-language pathologist) will assess your child’s ability to communicate.  They will look at your child’s understanding of language (receptive language skills), their ability to express themselves (expressive language skills) and how they produce specific sounds (articulation).  They SLP will also look at the way your child moves and coordinates the muscles in and around their mouth in order to produce sounds and chew and swallow food.

Developmental Therapy:  The DT (developmental specialist) will assess your child’s overall development. They also look at their social interactions, play skills, classroom interactions and cognitive skills.

After the evaluation is complete, the results will tell us which skills are missing and what, if any, further recommendations and referrals are needed.

If you have questions about the evaluation process or the results of the evaluation, please talk to your child’s therapist.  It’s important for you to understand exactly what is being assessed and what the results mean.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Has your child had a formal evaluation?  If so, what did your think about the evaluation process?                                                                                                                                                                          

3 Benefits of Developmental Screenings

It is perfectly normal for parents to have concerns about their child’s development.  Many parents, especially first time parents, may be unaware of “typical” child development milestones.  These milestones are important guidelines used to monitor and measure a child’s development, especially during the critical time for learning – birth to 5 years of age.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends “regular, universal developmental screenings of infants and toddlers by pediatric healthcare providers at 9, 18 and 30 months of age.”  These are standardized screenings that typically take about 15 – 20 minutes to complete and provide an overall snapshot of your child’s development. They are important for 3 reasons:

1.  Identify Areas of Concern:  These screenings look at all areas of development – including gross and fine motor skills, communication and language, cognitive skills, self-help skills, etc.  Screenings can be completed by your child’s pediatrician, but your child’s daycare, preschool, therapy center or other community organization may also be able to provide a screening for your child if you have concerns about a specific area of development.

2.  Monitor Growth and Development:  By completing screenings at regular intervals (9, 18 and 30 months), the pediatric professional is able to monitor your child’s development to make sure that they are continuing to gain new skills.

3.  Make Referrals for Services:  While screenings alone cannot diagnose a problem or indicate if a child needs therapy, if concerns are noted in any area, referrals can be made in a timely manner.  These referrals could be to your state’s Early Intervention system, specific therapy or education centers, other community programs, etc.

If you have concerns about your child’s development, it’s important for you to talk with your child’s pediatrician.  Always trust your parental instincts and remember that you are the expert on your child.  Tell the pediatric professional your concerns and ask for a screening to be completed if one isn’t offered.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Have you found developmental screenings to be beneficial for you and your child?