Parenting

Sneaking therapy into play

Since there are never enough hours in a day, Anchel shares how she fits in Syona’s therapy goals.

Syona going "grocery shopping" at home. As you can see, it is serious business!

When Syona was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy, I realized quite early on that our life was going to get awfully overwhelming if I tried to schedule in our therapy goals in addition to regular kid stuff.

So my solution was simple: Make Syona’s at-home therapy routine — physio, occupational, play-based and speech — a part of our day, and incorporate these things into our play. It’s not like we have specific times that we use toward specific goals, instead we just have made it part of our regular, everyday life.

A few weeks ago, I shared how much I love finding multi-purpose products. I also talked about how I would wander the aisles of toy stores for hours looking for specific types of toys that had been recommended for Syona. But now, my eyes have been trained to quickly spot toys that can be part of our therapy routine. Last month, I went on a Melissa & Doug bender and wanted to share a few of my favourites, in case you can use them in your own house.

Note: Their website doesn’t ship to Canada, but you can call them at 1-800-718-5365 to find a retailer near you.

  • Shopping cart: This all-metal cart is an awesome multi-use toy that Syona loves. First, it looks like the cart she goes in when she hits the grocery store with her dad. Second, you can weigh down the front by actually putting heavy things in it. She practices walking, hanging on and pulling up from a squat to standing. And it has a special seat for her doll.
  • Cutting fruit set: It goes great with her shopping cart and helps her build her fine motor skills by pulling apart the Velcro-joined items and using the “knife” to cut through each piece. They are a little on the big side, so it will be easier for her to handle when her tiny hands grow.
  • Paper rolls and their jumbo paintbrushes: These are awesome for Syona. Since her fine motor skills are a work in progress, having a huge paper roll that we can put on the ground is great. It brings things down to her playing field. Though we purchased their easel a while ago, Syona isn’t secure enough on her feet to use it (yet). And the big knob paintbrushes are so much easier for her to grip.

I know that at the beginning of the special-needs journey many parents say they don’t want to be the therapist. They just want to be a “normal” parent. And I get it. (Boy, do I ever get it.) But here’s what
I’ve learned: You don’t have to be one or the other. You can do both. You can make the most of the therapy part in your regular, everyday life. And as for normal, your definition needs to change. You need to be flexible, because this is your new normal. And though there will be tough days, your heart will swell with pride the second your child learns something new, and all of your efforts will be well worth it.

How do you incorporate your child’s therapy into your day-to-day life? What are your favourite toys?