Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A Christmas present when he was only 2 months old. While it may seem Santa was getting ahead of himself, he really was just anticipating a lot of progress from Matthew before his first birthday. Both sides of this compact playhouse have a variety of activities that help with many areas of development.
Encourage Gross Motor Skills
Matthew was sitting with less support when he was 8 months old. We sat him in front of his playhouse door with his favorite musical star (transferred from his Baby Einstein baby gym) attached to the door. The star was on motion-activated mode so each time he reached out for the star, grabbed it and shook it, music and lights came on. A boppy pillow loosely hugged his hips just in case he lost his balance and fell over sideways or backwards. It kept his attention and was the perfect set-up to reinforce the concept of cause and effect while strengthening core muscles in the trunk, stomach and back, which are needed for sitting unsupported. This activity also helped him warm up to the playhouse as he initially was not interested in any of the buttons.
He learned to play with the doorbell next. Then when he was strong enough to lean to the side and recover, he was playing with the orange roller and the flower. For added interest in reaching, I put other toys in the bowl on the outdoor side of the playhouse.
When he started to commando crawl at 12 months, I encouraged him to crawl through the door. At that time, he seemed interested in the fact that one side had his favorite button - the doorbell - and the other side had his other favorite buttons - the radio.
Pulling up to stand is another activity we've used this toy for although it's not very easy since there isn't a lot Matthew could hold on to even if the whole thing is very stable. The sun/moon dial at the top provided some motivation to stand.
Hone Fine Motor Skills
The radio buttons encourage pushing buttons with fingers instead of the palm or thumb. As with most things, I taught him hand over hand how to push the buttons with just his fingers. It only took a few repetitions before Matthew could easily do it by himself.
The balls for the purple rain spout on the side of the house were the perfect side for his cute little chubby hands to develop the proper palmar grasp, which means having the thumb around the toy instead of tucked into the palm. Fine Motor Skills for Children with Down Syndrome by Maryanne Bruni briefly mentions how "some children with Down syndrome tuck their thumb beside their index finger as they hold an object in their palm" and how this can lead to a delay in developing the pincer grasp.
Other activities to help develop dexterity and other fine motor skills include playing with the light switch, window, mailbox, and clock.
Enhance Cognitive Skills
Everything on this toy helps to work on cognition from shape sorting, shape recognition, dropping balls through the rain gutter, putting mail in and out of the mailbox to simple pretend play. Matthew used to have a hard time with dropping the balls into the purple rain gutter. Without me guiding his hand to the opening, he'd either put the ball right on top or right below the opening. Since about 2 months ago, he's been able to get the balls in all by himself. Yay!! (Applause!)
Develop Speech and Language
While the Learning Home has an interactive mode with programmed phrases instead of music, I think it is more important that I provide the interaction in helping Matthew develop speech and language.
When he was 9 months old, I had been talking to him about the doorbell and teaching him which button to press saying "Here's the doorbell. Let's push the button. Ding dong! Anybody home?" Matthew impressed his all therapists with his receptive language when I asked him, "Where's the doorbell?" then, without any visual prompting from me, he reached up with his right arm and pushed the doorbell button.
The songs are not easy for a toddler to sing-along with but they are sure fun to dance to. Since Matthew is drawn to music, I use this as one of the many talking points with him. I'd say, "Press a radio button. Listen to the music. Let's dance to the music." I'd sway to the music and Matthew sometimes swayed along with me.
Overall, a well-rounded developmental and engaging playhouse with lots of play potential for the early years of development. Matthew has been playing with this toy for about a year now and he has yet to discover the other components such as the clock, rotating house number, alphabet, and shape sorter on the door. I see him playing with this for several years. With as many times as he has played with it already, I'm pleasantly surprised that we have not had to replace the 3 "C" batteries yet. Thank you, Santa!
About 'Toy Review Tuesday': Every Tuesday, I write about our experience with a toy. This review is not to be construed as an endorsement of the product nor do I intend to put pressure on parents to purchase the toys reviewed. Questions, sharing your own experience, or any other helpful insights are welcome in the comment section.