Making Holidays Special for Special Needs

Making Holidays Special for Special Needs

Hey there! I'm Sarah, one of the Cubby Moms. I have have 2 beautiful kids - ages 7 and 2.  My 7-year-old is my Special Needs Kiddo. He was born healthy & happy. but at 10 months old he started having 150+ seizures a DAY. He was diagnosed with Infantile Spasms/West Syndrome (a catastrophic & very rare "childhood" epilepsy - 90% of the children become mentally handicapped due to the severity of this seizure type). On top of this he was also diagnosed with "drop-seizures" & "absence seizures", and Cortical Dysplasia (his brain didn't fully form in Utero). He had Brain Surgery at 3 years old where they removed almost 1/2 of his brain - the left temporal, occipital & parietal lobes). Cognitively he is anywhere from 10months - 2years old. He is non-verbal & has A LOT of behavior & sensory disorders. With the holidays coming up, I thought it would be fun to share a few of our favorite holiday activities or traditions that I've found helpful in including my Special Needs Kiddo in all of the Holiday excitement!

Kid-Friendly Advent Calendar

Counting down the days to Christmas & talking about what's going to happen on Christmas Day (everyday) can be a fun way to get kids of all ages and levels excited about Christmas Day. Especially if they get fun treats or toys that interest them! We love getting little toys that make noise or letting them decorate the "Tree" calendar.

Advent calendar’s are great for getting kids of all ages excited for Christmas Day!

25 days of wrapped Christmas Books

I love this idea for any child, especially with my Special Needs son. He doesn't understand the concept of gifts, but it is still a fun way to prep him for unwrapping takes a lot of practice & patience to do what might be a "simple task" for most Special Needs kids. Unwrapping a gift 25 times for 25 consecutive days is a great, repetitive task to help them make that "connection".

25 Days of Christmas Stories is a great way to help kiddos get used to the idea of unwrapping presents!

If you don't have 25 Christmas books already, you can start by going to the library or the thrift store to find affordable books. One of my favorite books, is the BabyLit "A Christmas Carol" (sold at The Baby Cubby).

 "A Christmas Carol" from BabyLit is a favorite among children!

Kid-Friendly Christmas Tree

Let's face it....YOUR. KIDS. WILL. PLAY. WITH. THE. TREE. The best idea I've ever had was to omit the "Show-Room Tree". Last year, my tree lasted TWO DAYS. By Christmas, my tree was bare - it MAYBE had 3 ornaments at the top. My kiddo's just love to touch my tree and all the ornaments. Everything is fun and new and bright! So, I'm opting for a kid-friendly touchable tree this year becuase Christmas is supposed to be fun & exciting, right!?!

Opt for a kid-friendly tree (at least in one part of the house) so that your kids can feel involved. My house always had a “pretty tree” and a “kid tree.”

Decorating Treats

If your Special Needs child isn't on a medical diet (yes, we've done those too) then this is a GREAT activity. You can make it as simple or creative as you want. For my son, simple is best....I found these cute Cupcake Kits that you can do "hand-over-hand" and stick a cute Santa right on top.

Cupcake decorating is fun for kids of all ages and can help with motor skills!

Cinnamon Ornaments

This is a fun and easy sensory activity! When the applesauce & cinnamon are mixed together it creates a "dough" like texture. The kids can play with it, sniff it, eat it, and cut out shapes!

Making cinnamon ornaments is a great sensory and motor skill activity!

Here is the recipe from McCormick's:
Makes 12 to 15 ornaments.
Directions  (30 minsPrep time2 hrs 30 mins Cook time):
  • Preheat oven to 200°F. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed. (You may need use your hands to incorporate all of the cinnamon.) Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap. Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into desired shapes with 2- to 3-inch cookie cutters. Make a hole at top of ornament with drinking straw or skewer. Place ornaments on baking sheet.
  • Bake 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on wire rack. (Or, to dry ornaments at room temperature, carefully place them on wire rack. Let stand 1 to 2 days or until thoroughly dry, turning occasionally.)
  • Insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang. Decorate with opaque paint markers, found in arts and crafts stores, if desired.

The Gift Round-Up

When it comes to my Special Needs Kiddo gifts are super hard to find! I am always looking for things that are on his level, but will still help him develop or practice skills he needs. I've rounded up some of his favorites from past Christmases that would be perfect sitting under the tree for your Special Needs kiddo or any young child! Tegu Blocks -These are pretty amazing blocks! They are made from renewable wood and are MAGNETIC. Tegu are also easy to use, especially for "hand-over-hand" therapy play. Tegu has many different sets to choose from including a Pocket Pouch Set that fits nicely in your purse for them to play "on-the-go." For more information about Tegu as a company (because they are pretty fantastic!) check out our previous blog, "Happy Birthday, Tegu! You're Six!"

Petit Collage Puzzles - This is perfect for "fine-motor" therapy play. The puzzle is BIGGER & THICKER then the average puzzle, making it easier to pick-up & maneuver. It is also great for "hand-over-hand".

BabyLit's "A Christmas Carol" - If you aren't familiar with BabyLit Books they are AMAZING! The graphics are fun & simple with (mostly) two-word descriptions. Both of my kids will not sit still if there is too much going on or too many words, so these books are perfect (not to mention SUPER STURDY - I secretly want the ENTIRE library).

Saranoni Lush Blanket - If your kiddo is sensory oriented like mine they will love cuddling up in these "Lush" blankets! My son likes to "stroke" the fibers with his fingers and it calms him down fast! Thank goodness we FINALLY found something! I will pay good money for anything that will calm him. They come in many sizes ranging from a small mini blanket 15"x20" to home throw size 50"x60."

Fox Skip Hop Backpack - First off, this little fox is just plain cute!!! It's the perfect size for kids to pack around. Anything to help you not have to carry everything!

NumNum Dips - We are still working on "self-feeding" and let me tell you it is SUPER HARD. It's messy & frustrating for my guy. These NumNum Dips are easy to hold, put in the bowl & less-mess then a spoon. They also have little nubs for sensory oriented kids. Perfect to throw in the Stocking!

Como-Tomo Silicone Teether - This would be perfect in the Stocking Stuffer as well. Like I said, my kiddo is very sensory oriented and these are great try for sensory kiddos if they like to put things in their mouth.   ...I hope these tips might be of help to some of you mamas! xoxo, Sarah

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