Milking Balloons

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Birthday - he was all about the balloons
I was really bummed when the dollar store in my town stopped selling balloons - I could deal with 50 cents pop for little helium filled bubbles of childhood joy.

But alas, for Bear's last two birthdays my only option was the old school downtown party supply store, complete with creaky floors and crotchety octogenarian owner, ear hair and all.  Plain old latex balloons are a buck a piece, and they deflate overnight.

Bear adores balloons, and what's a kiddie birthday party without them?  So, I reluctantly shell out for 20 and vow to get my money's worth.

These are our favorite leftover party balloon ideas, most of which fit right into the average sensory diet.  Typically, our helium balloons are mostly deflated by the next morning, so we unclip and blow up again on our own. But there's no reason you couldn't do these with any old balloon.

Bear's geeky engineer Grandpa demonstrated power of static
My son really notices static shocks and asks about them on a regular basis.  Rubbing balloons is a great way for them to experiment with static in a controlled way.

- Rubbing a balloon is a tactile and auditory experience.

- Static creates a subtle tactile experience that's a fun way to introduce the scientific concept.

- Bear is very defensive about being touched on the head. Rubbing/pressing with a balloon is fun way to work on this aversion that he readily accepts.

For little guys just learning to catch (or older ones with motor control issues), a slow moving balloon is ideal for practicing the motor planning necessary to catch a ball.

My son's wheelchair bound Great Grandma told us about this one.  You can sit several people on either side of a table and play balloon volleyball.  They play this when the preschoolers visit Grandma's assisted living senior facility for their holiday party.  It's great for participants with limited mobility or motor planning challenges.

Trampoline Tease
We put Bear in the trampoline and...

- hold the balloon over his head, making him jump higher and higher to touch it.

- drop the balloon and let him try various ways to hit/kick/catch it.

Balloon Ball Pit
Our mini trampoline has a net and also serves as our ball pit.  When we've got leftover party balloons, we fill the trampoline let him at it.

I know it's time to let them go the day I trip over one and annoyance overtakes the fading birthday party glow.

- I hold each balloon steady for him.

- I give him a thumb tack (the kind with a plastic grip about the size of a pencil eraser - it's a reasonable fine motor task, and they're not too sharp).

- I draw it out as much as possible.  We talk about which color to do next, and I make him pick (with his processing problems, making even simple decisions can be very difficult).  We do a countdown of some kind to stretch the wait, which makes it more of an event and is practice for one of his big challenges (impulsivity).  Obviously, it also makes the fun last longer.

When we're done popping, he helps me collect all the broken balloon bits.  It's another tactile experience, and a chance to discuss why the the same material feels and looks different now (yay! science!).

He got a little balloon powered plastic race car in his stocking I'm sure I'll drag out of hiding one of these subzero days.  But first I need to put balloons on the shopping list.

Bear thinks it's hilarious to let them go out of reach up the stairwell.