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Children's Health

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Playtime for Children With Cognitive Delays

Be in the Moment

Although you may expect your child’s play to work toward some noticeable goal, to achieve something that's measureable, Pratola persuades the parents of children with cognitive delays to think of playtime differently.

"Real play is not goal oriented," she says. Rather, "you present the child with an opportunity and follow their lead for what they want to learn.” From here cognitive development and other benefits will follow. Your goal, as the parent, should be to foster your relationship with your child and to make sure that you both are enjoying the other’s company. In order to do so, you may find it helpful to present yourself in fun mode, rather than wearing your strict parent’s cap.

To make play time successful, Pratola says you should also set aside specific time for playing. Make it a priority. Easier said than done, but it's important.

Enlist the Help of Your Child's Therapists

Cognitive delays span a broad variety of difficulties, and children's personalities can differ greatly. So it's a good idea to consult with your child's physical therapist, speech therapist, occupational therapist, and any other experts who are helping and guiding your child's development. Ask them for guidance on specific activities that you can do at home.

While focusing on the fun, it's also important to know the rationale behind some of the suggestions that experts may make for the playful activities that you can enjoy with your child.

Here are some of the reasons for certain expert suggestions, for the best activities for children with cognitive delays in different age groups.

Play Tips: Newborn to Age 1

Pratola states that sensory motor play is beneficial at this young age. These activities will involve body play, like tickling, along with lots of close face to face interaction and eye contact. Be sure to play games that feel good to your child and that include tactile elements, like making a game out of giving your baby belly rubs.

Trish Cox, a certified child life specialist and social worker at the Portsmouth School District in New Hampshire, states that at this age mobiles are also very important for healthy development, because they engage children’s visual senses. She suggests lullabies, rattles, and toys with different sounds -- even toys or books with distinct smells, in order to engage all your child’s senses.

''Offer a mirror so the child can look at himself,” Cox suggests. Consider a play mat so he can spend time on the floor in different positions.

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