Ideas for Younger Learners

Active Learning at Home

Parents are often feel they must buy expensive equipment to support Active Learning activities at home, but that is not at all true. Just take a look at a few ideas from parents. We should point out that these activities need supervision and all environments should be checked to make sure they are safe before letting the child play in them.

A young boy plays with beads and other suspended items in foreground.
A young boy plays with beads and other suspended items in foreground.

Voozeki is actively learning through play and exploration. Children with limited mobility often have a difficult time grasping objects.  His family has created this Active Learning spaces for him at home using things they had available around the house. In this picture we see him with a backdrop armature they have been able to hang instruments and toys to make sounds or music. In the foreground are a variety of beads, bells, and other items that make sound, hung for him to explore.

NOTE:  We recommend that some tubing be added over the elastic (for safety) to ensure that a child does not wrap fingers around the elastic and cut off circulation to the fingers.

Voozeki with Bathmat & Beads

Image of a child's hand exploring gel beads on a rubber bathtub mat.
Image of a child’s hand exploring gel beads on a rubber bathtub mat.

As we have seen on the page about using an Active Learning approach at home, expensive equipment is not a prerequisite to getting started!  The video below shows how a simple bath mat and water beads can be an interesting and developmentally appropriate activity, without need for any specialized equipment. In the video below, a boy with cerebral palsy, Voozeki, is seated outside in his wheelchair. On his lap tray is a spiky, gel bathmat with water beads. 

Please note that this activity is not recommended for someone who puts things in his mouth.

Description: A boy with cerebral palsy is seated outside in his wheelchair. On his lap tray is a spiky, gel bathmat with water beads.

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Voozeki with Red Garland

Voozeki plays with red Christmas tree garland. Video courtesy of the Gardea family, 2018.

 Note: The tinsel garland is not very strong and if eaten could be a hazard.  While this child just rubs it on his face and touches it,  it could be dangerous for children who might put it in their mouths or try to eat it.  For those children you could string buttons on elastic (very long) or attach items to tubing, or use fringe from a material store that is more sturdy, etc.


Voozeki with Beach Chair

Voozeki’s family supervise his play in prone using a beach chair.

Note:   The beach chair is not very sturdy and someone must hold him in the position, but it is better than not doing it at all.  Note that the hip joint cannot bend because the chair is too long.  Finding a chair that is shorter in width would produce a better result by allowing the legs to move as well and this would be a good idea to try.

 

Comparing Similar Items

A typically developing infant or toddler is constantly moving, touching, mouthing, smelling, looking, and listening.  A child spends a great amount of time in the first two years of life playing, experiencing and exploring with toys and objects.  It is the method by which all humans develop foundational concepts.  Through play, a child learns about size, shape, temperature, texture, flexibility, and density.  A child gains cognitive skills such as spatial relations, object concept, object permanence, and begins to develop problem solving skills.  A child will learn about the function of an object, compare qualities, understand quantity and begin to develop language skills.  The individual with special needs must also have opportunities to master these skills, an Active Learning environment will provide this opportunity.

Video of Child Comparing Items While Sitting in His High Chair

Description: In Active Learning, foundational concepts are developed through exploration of similar objects. This video, produced by SKI-HI Institute, demonstrates how a young boy with a visual impairment explores the properties of similar objects.

Comparables video
Comparables video

Laundry Basket

A baby reaches for a laundry basket to pull things out through the holes in the sides of the basket. Other objects such as a belt are attached to the outside.
A baby reaches for a laundry basket to pull things out through the holes in the sides of the basket. Other objects such as a belt are attached to the outside.

A parent shared this simple idea:  just place items inside the laundry basket and the child can pull them out through the holes.  Be sure that the items are small enough or squishy enough to be able to fit.  You can leave part of the item hanging out a bit for the child to find more easily and to help him or her get it started.

 

Glow Art

Boy engaging with glow art
Boy engaging with glow art

This boy with CVI (cortical visual impairment) and cerebral palsy is using neon paint to create glow art.  Neon paint has been placed on the cover of a slanted black notebook, which raises it a bit, making it easier for him to access both visually and tactually. A black light is shining on the paint, which illuminates it, without shining in his eyes or distracting him. Paintbrushes are suspended on elastic next to each of his hands, so that he is able to grasp them and bring them to the paint surface to create a picture.  His family has created this set-up to allow him to explore the paint independently. 

Collage of Active Learning Activities to Try at Home