Tis’ the Season! And here is our gift guide for kids to help make holiday gifting a little easier.
Every year we get asked “What can I get so and so for Christmas” and most years it’s hard trying to come up with some educational and fun toys our boys would love. Especially when they don’t necessarily “play” with toys.
This year we’ve been able to find some great options for kids of all ages with or without additional needs that will be that perfect gift under the tree this year.
Gift giving can be hard and complicated at times especially when the child doesn’t necessarily “play” with toys. We hope that our 2020 gift guide with our favorites for our boys help make gifting this holiday season a little bit easier.
This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are our own.
Let’s talks about sensory play!
Kids on the spectrum often have difficulty coping with everyday sensory stimuli which can make it hard for them to live in our world. Everyday experiences the rest of us take for granted can be overwhelming or feel impossible for a child with special needs to navigate or deal with.
We’ve found that incorporating sensory play helps them cope with the hectic, loud, over stimulated world we live in and the bonus is that it also develops their social and cognitive skills.
What Is Sensory Play?
Sensory play is a fun activity that engages one or more of your senses. Some think we only have 5 senses - touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell but we actually have eight – body awareness (proprioception), and inner awareness (interoception), balance (vestibular).
Not only does it offer an easy and natural way for children to connect with their world, but it also helps to develop language skills, fine and gross motor skills, social skills, and self-control through a calming effect which is very helpful for children with special needs.
Sensory play has helped our boys develop these skills as well as calm them down when life gets a bit to stimulating.
One form of sensory play we LOVE are sensory bins
Here are some fun DIY sensory bins ideas.
(Note: Adult supervision and assistance is recommended)
Sensory bins are absolutely wonderful for kids. They allow them to explore their senses (in particular the sense of touch). They also allow for open-ended play, which is one of the best ways for our kids to learn and explore.
Here are a few sensory bin fillers we use and love.
You don’t need to break the bank and the dollar store is your best friend if you don’t have these items at home.
If you want to get a little more creative, here are a couple of easy DIY filler recipes:
To make just one batch of cloud dough you’ll need the following ingredients.
Should you have a large sensory table we suggest to double or even triple the recipe.
HOW TO MAKE CLOUD DOUGH
COLORED MOON SAND
YOU WILL NEED:
Substitute coconut oil for cooking oil or baby oil
If you don’t have oil-based food coloring, leaving the moon sand plain is fine. It will look like beach sand.
Make it gluten-free with a gluten-free flour mix
Add a hint of scent with a few drops of vanilla or a bit of cinnamon spice.
HOW TO MAKE MOON SAND:
TIP 1: Make sure to use oil-based food coloring in this tutorial. The standard food coloring will not work because moon sand is oil based.
TIP 2: Moon Sand can also be colored using chalk and powdered tempera paint.
STEP 1: Melt ¼ melted coconut oil and mix with 1 tsp of food coloring in a large bowl. (Add more food coloring to achieve the desired color)
STEP 2: Add the flour to the oil and stir to combine.
Sensory bins are great and fundamental in helping children with special needs to relax and concentrate easier on a given task. It’s also a fantastic DIY tool to increase learning opportunities (such as teaching new vocabulary and exploring new textures).
The opportunities for sensory play with sensory bins are ENDLESS!
Please feel free to email us to ask us any questions about these sensory bins and activities.
NOTE: Make sure that your child is always supervised while using sensory bins, especially if he or she tends to put small items in his or her mouth.
It’s week 2 of staying home and social distancing.
The COVID-19 pandemic keeps changing and more information is being shared minute by minute with no understanding of when all this will end.
So we sit here and ask ourselves “Now what?”
What do we do with our kids? How do we entertain them?
Throughout this past week we’ve seen some incredible examples of people coming together to make this new "norm" easier for us parents.
However, we need to remember that it’s ok if we can’t do it all.
It’s ok if we don’t follow that “schedule” we see floating around on social media.
What our kids need the most right now is to be loved and to feel safe.
Play with them, sit outside and blow bubbles, create art with chalk, bake, cook, make doing chores fun and rewarding, paint, play board games, watch movies or find virtual field trips but most of all just be there for them as they try to make sense of all this. Sometime even doing nothing but cuddling on the sofa with a book or iPad is exactly what they need.
This new “norm” is tough so just take it one day at a time and do what you can, the best way that you can for your family and your mental health.
If you are looking for some ideas and to how to entertain the kiddos, here are some accounts, links to websites, resource pages, groups, organizations, etc. we found too keep them occupied, learning and having fun:
@theggsisters - virual camp for kids & adults with guests
@masterminds - story time
@scholasticcda - resource link
@indigo - "at home" within their highlight
@performingdancearts - online virtual dance learning
@mrsspeechiep - sharing daily activities (speech, play, & fine motor)
@autismsuprmoms - kid’s activities
@travelswithtots - kid’s activities
@recvaughan - playschool worksheets
@stem_camp - kid’s activities
On Facebook groups/pages:
Kid Quarantine Resources
Parent idea sharing while kids are off school
Scholars Education Centre
Websites and Links:
Learn from Home - Government Program
COVID-19 Tool kit - Supporting Individuals with Autism through Uncertain Times
FREE Art Activity Workbook
Have Fun Teaching - Relief Packs
If I can leave you with one final thought, at the end of all of this, your mental health and those of your kids will be far more important than their academic skills. So just be there for them. Hug them a little tighter and be that safe place they know they can go to.
We are all in this together and if there is ever anything we at Together We Are Better can do for any of you please reach out.
Stay safe and healthy my friends!
If you are running a program or know someone that is please let us know and we will update our list above plus a shout out on our social media platforms.
Be sure to check back real soon for some great printable activities to keep the kids entertained.
3.21 is World Down Syndrome Day, a day we encourage to raise awareness about Down syndrome to the world.
Join us on March 21, 2020 as we celebrate differences by sporting your wackiest, mismatch socks all day long and by colouring your #LotsOfSocks coloring page in the coolest way!
Make sure to take us on instagram @2getherwerbetter
Printable PDF version click here
It’s a question that we as parents get asked often. What is it? How? And what do you do now?
The how is the unknown and what do you do now can vary from diagnosis to diagnosis.
However, early intervention is key and finding the right team of therapists can be challenging.
In another blog we’ll go in detail as to what worked for us and what we continue to do for our boys.
As for the What…Google states the following:
a developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication and by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior.
a congenital disorder arising from a chromosome defect, causing intellectual impairment and physical abnormalities including short stature and a broad facial profile. It arises from a defect involving chromosome 21, usually an extra copy (trisomy-21).
For us it’s just one of the many characteristics of our sons. Autism or Down Syndrome is only one part of who they are and it doesn’t define them in any shape or form.
It is simply a label and yes, such a label will open doors to support, therapies and government funding for some in Ontario.
For us we define the what differently.
How do we define Autism and Down Syndrome?
Most importantly is loving our boys unconditionally and doing everything in our power including advocating with a loud voice to get them the support they deserve and a chance to succeed and be independent.
How do you define Autism and Down Syndrome?
Who are Daniela and Christina?
If you haven’t read the full bio in our “About Us” page then here you will find the Coles notes of who we are and why we started Together We Are Better and a tim-bit or two you won’t find in our “About Us” page.
We are 2 special needs moms that became the best of friends as we saw our boys grow together at a specialized therapy school in Toronto now also in Vaughan.
In 2012, after struggling for a year and a bit paying for therapy out of pocket and knowing I (Daniela) would be on a very long waitlist for government funding, introduced the idea of fundraising to our school. That’s when Christina and I officially met.
Christina was one of the first parents to get right in there and help and has been by my side ever since.
Fun fact: For the first couple of fundraising years we would compete as to who could raise the most.
Who is Daniela?
As mentioned in my bio on the “About Us” page… Creative, caring, motivated and stubborn are some of the adjectives people have used to describe me. I personally would also include protective and determined especially when it comes to my family but specifically with my son.
22 months after my son was born my world changed and my life took a different direction. Going back to work full time and/or pursuing a career were pushed aside, instead I went in search of answers.
In June of 2012, my son was given the diagnosis of Autism. That was my turning point and when I realized that being a mom and advocating for him would always be my number one priority. That started with Together We Are Better as a fundraising committee to now a nonprofit as well as me sharing my experiences with all of you.
Three Fun Facts about Daniela:
Who is Christina?
Being a busy mother to four boy’s, life is anything but boring or quiet. Dirty dishes, loads of laundry, constant trips to the grocery store and countless hours to hockey, soccer, swimming and other extracurricular are a constant. On top of all that there is therapy for my eldest Adriano as he has Down Syndrome and Autism.
Adriano’s arrival was a little bit of a surprise, three weeks early and we didn’t learn of his diagnosis until three days after his birthday which again added confusion to our surprise. We were completely unprepared as to what to expect not only as first-time parents but also now as parents of a child with special needs. It took us a while to get back on our feet but like every other parent, we realized we had a child to raise and family to grow.
Then again, we were thrown for a loop when at 7 years old, Adriano was diagnosed with autism.
Our goal then and now will always be to help him meet his goals. To give him a life he deserves with independence. So, we face these challenges together, now with the addition of three younger brothers, our team, our fighters – and all of you.
Three Fun Facts about Christina:
When we were introduced to the community of special needs parenting there really wasn’t a large presence of social media, Facebook group, forums, etc. and unfortunately years later not much has changed and families are still struggling with navigating the system.
For that reason, we decided to tap into the blogging, influencer division of social media to help other parents understand that they are not alone and that there are many of us that “get it”.
We hope that through our posts, our blogs and our experiences others may find a place that they can turn too and relate too.
Parenting a child is hard, parenting a child with special needs is a different world altogether. It will be hard and there will be good days, bad days and really hard, exhausting and overwhelming moments but it’s through baby steps, small victories, words of encouragement, smiles, and our love for our children that makes us stronger. We just need to remember to celebrate all the victories big or small and that we need to see the world a bit differently.
Post a fun fact about yourself