photo: Kerianne Brown
As many parents can attest, life is crazy. And if you have a special needs child, you’re likely juggling a busy schedule, plus additional doctors’ appointments and various therapies for your kid. Sometimes even the simple things can be a difficult depending on your child’s abilities. For our family, Syona’s cerebral palsy makes some everyday tasks a challenge. Over the past several months I’ve found some products that make our life easier. Hopefully you’ll find them useful too — whether your kids have special needs or are typically developing.Syona.
Syona can’t sit up independently and this made going out for dinners a challenge. She would fall out of the standard wooden high chairs (luckily, we didn’t find this out the hard way), and if we wanted to go out to eat, we had to find room for our stroller. Our problem-solver? My Little Seat, a super portable handy tie-chair that attaches to any chair that has a back. It has proper straps — both shoulder and lap, so it worked well for us. Safety note: Be sure to stay in arm’s reach of your little one.
A lot of our therapy is play-based and we rely on toys to help achieve goals, teach cognitive concepts and just have fun. Almost anything from Discovery Toys fits the bill. These toys have come highly recommended from Syona’s therapists as being engaging and durable. Fisher-Price Canada also has some awesome toys. Their Go Baby Go! Stride-to-Ride Dino is a favourite in our house. Little People Zoo Talkers: Animal Sounds Zoo is great for encouraging Syona’s pretend play, which is a milestone for cognitive development.
Early sensory experiences help teach children how the world works. Munchkin’s White Hot Inflatable Safety Tub is great for travel, but can also be used as a sensory toy and mini-ball pit. We love to fill it with sand and bury “treasure” (small toys or other kid-friendly objects) for little hands to discover. Tangiballs by Discovery Toys come in two great sizes and we use them to teach the concept of rolling and movement, and even place them on Syona’s head, back and feet to give her sensory input from head to toe.
When you’re a first-time parent, sometimes it’s hard to know exactly what you should do when you’re playing with kids. Is three months too early to play cause-and-effect games? At what point does singing the ABCs actually matter? 1-2-3 Just Play with Me is a box-set of easy-to-read notecards that give you age-appropriate play ideas designed by a physical therapist and speech-language pathologist. Plus, they’re a great gift for any first-time parent.
Syona has some motor issues with her mouth, which means she can’t close it as easily as some kids do. This leads to drool-soaked shirts. Bibs with Velcro closures don’t work because Syona just rips them off. My new personal favourites are bibs by The Ellie Rose. They are made with beautiful fabrics and are super absorbent. A bonus? They come with two adjustable snap closures. For mealtimes, we’re big fans of JJ Cole Collections bibs, with a catch-all pocket. They are easy to clean after a messy meal, and have three adjustable snap closures
Syona likes to take everything that is on her highchair tray and throw it on the ground. She can’t feed herself yet, but putting finger foods in actual plates or bowls makes it a little easier for her to pick food up (whether it reaches her mouth is a whole other story). We’re big fans of the Catch Plate and Catch Bowl by Boon. We also love the Stay-Put Suction Toddler Bowl by Munchkin. Boon also makes edgeless saucers and bowls that are harder for little hands to pick up. My little Houdini has managed to grasp them and push them around, but none have gone overboard… yet.
Utensils that are bent make it much easier for kids to learn the concept of self-feeding. Designed by an occupational therapist, EasieEaters are economical, a nice size and are available for both right- and left-handed users. If your child has a smaller mouth, Boon makes bendable utensils which are a great learning tool for any kid.
I know, it’s not something you can go pick up from a store but, as the saying goes, it takes a village. This is definitely true for us. We’re lucky — we have family who live close by and some fantastic friends. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have people to cover you so you can take a break, or get out for a date night with your partner. If not, it might be worth hiring the occasional sitter so you can. Or if you’re looking to meet other parents, playgroups, parks and even Facebook and Twitter can be great places to meet friends.
Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners