The first Wednesday of August is National Play Day in the UK – with this year’s theme being everyday low-cost or no-cost play adventures that children can enjoy at home, in settings, and in our communities. But as parents of disabled children know, even play can present its own difficulties.
While play can be a powerful motivator for children, feeding their curiosity and providing fuel for their imagination, it is also how children make sense of the world around them. It helps them make those all-important developmental leaps, increases their awareness of how things work and develops important social skills, such as sharing and negotiating. Play can also help children bond – with parents, siblings, and friends – and can help them relax or be a much-needed distraction, particularly during stressful times or when a child is unwell.
However, when a child has difficulty playing, the power of play to help them in all aspects of life can be lost. Whether this is because of a physical issue, developmental delays, or illness, sometimes playing just isn’t straight forward. But there is help available.
The right kind of specialist toys to meet your child’s needs can work wonders, whether it’s a toy that can stimulate specific senses, encourage development, or just make it easier for them to use. But these can be expensive, making them unaffordable for many families, particularly with the cost of living at an all-time high. And with no guarantee you child will respond, it leaves many parents feeling at a loss. Loans of specialist sensory toys from Newlife can remove some of this stress for families while helping children find toys they can respond to – and opening the door to so much more.
Newlife’s Play Therapy Pods are loaned to families with disabled or terminally ill children free of charge, with each loan lasting for around 12 weeks. There are different categories of play pods to choose from, depending on the child’s age, physical and learning abilities, and medical needs.
Each carefully created pod is designed to stimulate in different ways. They include a Sensory Pod with a mix of different types of toys which is suitable from birth, Adventure Pods suitable from 18 months, Discovery Pods suitable from age three and Explorer Pods suitable from age five. Within these there are pods specialising in a variety of different areas such as textures, vision, hearing, interaction and communication.
Two-year-old Elijah, from Shropshire, is one child who has really benefitted from the specialist toys from Newlife. Elijah isn’t able to sit or stand by himself and finds it difficult to grasp things in his hands. He is delayed in his development and motor skills, meaning he struggled to play with standard toys – but when Newlife provided him with a free loan of a Play Therapy Pod to see which best meet his needs, it opened up a whole new world of fun!
Mum Victoria said: “Elijah has tried the Multi-Sensory Play and Animal Adventure pods from Newlife, and he loved them both. He has learned how to play peekaboo with one of the toys, and the first time it jumped out at him it made him giggle so much, and it made me so happy as I hadn’t heard him laugh that much in ages.
“His favourite toys are the ones he can easily hold, and he has been able to play a lot better with these specialist toys than toys we have tried before. He also gets really excited by them, as they are new and different, whereas usually he gets bored of toys easily.
“He has learnt that the toys make different noises, and they have helped with his development for when he is old enough to start nursery.”
The specialist toys have not only improved his motor skills but have also helped him communicate and play in new ways with his two older sisters by giving them new ways to play together.
Victoria added: “It’s wonderful to have this family bonding time, and to see all the children get excited by the new toys. We love the service and will definitely be getting more pods. It’s also amazing to try before you buy, as there are things I hadn’t thought of buying him before, but now I know that he likes them, I have put them on the list for his birthday and Christmas.”
To apply for the loan of a Play Therapy Pod click here or contact Newlife’s Nurse Helpline on 0800 902 0095 (free from UK mobiles and landlines) Monday to Friday between 10am and 4.30pm.