Children with Down syndrome have deficits in some areas of development. However, by providing the right environment and right activities early in life, we can help the child develop and pick up the skills that they are lacking. Early childhood activities for infants and toddlers with Down syndrome will be beneficial for them and help them learn new skills in a natural and enjoyable way.
Physical Development Activities
Children with Down syndrome often have muscles that are a little floppy. This prevents them from picking up physical skills as easily as other children. Some children also tend to move less, for the same reason. Providing opportunities for a range of physical activities during the day helps develop the tone of muscles, and also physical skills. Activities that involve crawling, standing and walking are recommended. You can encourage a child to move by throwing the toy they are playing with a little further so that they try to move and get it.
Balance and Vestibular Activities
Children with Down syndrome often have difficulties with balance, as well as their vestibular system. This is why they are often fearful of slides and swings. Developing balance of the child will help decrease these fears. The child should be given an opportunity to participate in a lot of movement activities like swings and slides, as well as the balance board or Swiss ball activities. A hammock can be used in different ways as it can support the child in different positions, and also allows both front and back movement as well as side to side. All these activities will help develop their vestibular system, and thus their sense of balance.
Hand Function Activities
In Down Syndrome, children have a slightly different arrangement of the bones of their hand. This is one of the reasons why they find many fine coordination activities difficult. Providing activities that improve eye-hand coordination, as well as manipulation skills, will help the child pick up these skills more easily. A variety of art and craft activities can be used for this purpose. In addition play dough modeling, lacing and picking up small objects are also good activities that you can use.
In Down Syndrome, children often have hypersensitivity. They may not like to touch some objects or walk on some surfaces. To decrease this, rub different textures on the sole of the child’s foot and the palm of their hand. Start with comfortable and tolerable sensations and slowly introduce other sensations that the child may not like. Some sensations that the child may not like to touch are glue, jelly, sand, and mud. The child may not like to walk on grass, cold surfaces, uneven surfaces like pebbles, or muddy surfaces. Activities like playing with play dough, finger painting and foot painting can also help reduce hypersensitivity.
These are some useful ideas for early childhood activities for infants and toddlers with Down Syndrome that will aid your students in all aspects of movement. You can be creative with these ideas and create your own activities that will help the child pick up specific skills that they require.