Babysitters...I mean Baby Apps

I started motherhood determined not to let Evie have too much screen time.  I would say that still applies for TV, but I am now convinced that the iPad is a great tool for Evie's learning.  She is, after all, a child of the future!   As technology gets used more and more, especially with assisted learning, I see it as an advantage for Evie to already know how to use an iPad.


Here are our favorite apps!

Peekaboo Farm: When Evie first started looking at this app, she didn't understand that she should hit the screen to see the animals.  Now she understands Cause and Effect, and gets rewarded by a cow appearing and mooing at her.  This is not to be confused with Peekaboo Kids (instead of Farm), which isn't bad, but shows certain animals answering nature's call and then cackling, if you're offended by that.

Peekaboo Fridge:  A variant of Peekaboo Farm, but just as good.  If we are teaching her about food, then why not?  They also have Peekaboo Christmas, Peekaboo Halloween, and Peekaboo Forest. I personally don't like the Halloween and Forest versions.

Smart Rattle:  This is not a high tech game. But it's riveting somehow.  Every 20 seconds, the scene changes and objects like farm animals, cars, ocean life, etc float across the screen and make noises or spin around if the baby touches the screen.  Evie could stare at it for hours. You can shake your phone and make the animals shake around too. She has great coordination with holding an iPhone (of course).

Leapfrog Toddler Rhythms: Evie loves music, and she loves this app. She can sit with this app (just staring and listening) for an hour if I let her.

Baby Sign: Evie likes watching the baby sign words, and we learn baby sign language slowly. Very slowly. With nice splotches of drool on my iPad screen.

Giggle Gang: Somehow these little fuzzy circle people who sing when you tap on them make Evie mesmerized.  There's a piano keyboard on it too. Good cause and effect.

Patty Shukla: Our latest is the Patty Shukla Toddler App (volume 4). Patty Shukla's soothing yet fun voice has allowed me to reclaim my games in Words With Friends and catch a Pokemon here and there in the living room. Evie is fascinated with the singing and I've seen her following the motions of the kids on the screen.  Her favorite song is 5 Little Penguins. That's my girl!

Evie showing off her nice posture while sitting on her own (her legs could be less splayed, but it's a work in progress).

Pandora: Our current favorite stations are Raffi, Music Together, and Toddler Music.  Evie loves Raffi's "Brush Your Teeth" song with a passion, even when Daddy makes up the words and they are so wrong.  (Love you, husband!)

I stumbled across a great care.com article called "22 Best Apps for Children With Special Needs." Included is a link to a mom's spreadsheet that lists apps for all categories  you can think of: Communication for non-verbal children, Language Development, Math, Games, Music, etc.
The article also describes recommendations by specialists for apps to help social cues, telling time, dexterity, and other important life skills.

My next project is to take pictures of certain objects/verbs that we use often, and train Evie to point to them when she wants to do these things.  She is still learning to point--right now pointing means jabbing me in the face with her thumb.  I'm told by our OT that kids with DS tend to learn to point with the

Please feel free to share any apps that you like for your kids, or any tips for helping Evie to learn more ways of communication!

Things I never thought about with food

We got the go-ahead from our GI doc to cut down the amount of formula by g-tube to try to make Evie a little hungrier.  There is a whole world out there about different philosophies of weaning kids off g-tubes, and I won't go into it here, but it's truly making my head spin.  I am just going to give this plan a chance (of reducing 20%*) and give Evie a few weeks to figure out that food is even more fun than she thought.  We expect she will lose a few ounces here and there, and our goal is to use some food strategies to keep her from losing too much weight while she expands her food horizons. The most important lesson for the summer is: FOOD IS FUN, EVIE!


So you need your kid to gain weight. She doesn't even eat food with too much texture yet. She can eat purees and yogurt, and that's about it.  How do you expand her palette and avoid food aversions at the same time?

I haven't come across a comprehensive list of food tips, so I'm going to write down what I've learned so far as notes to myself, and I invite any other tips so I can make a more comprehensive list! 

1. USE GOOD FATS.
Add olive oil to either g-tube feeds or any purees or blended foods. At this stage, we are doing 1/2 teaspoon of olive oil in 100 ml milk by g-tube.


  • Avocado: blended, mashed, whatever way you can get it in. My friend adds some vanilla and sugar to the avocado for her son.  Evie is working towards this but the weight of the food on her tongue still makes her gag.  Turns out she likes it mixed with her food pouch for some flavor and some almond milk to thin it out a bit.
  • Full milkfat yogurts and smoothies. Enough said. We mix in Siggi's 4% milk fat yogurt (wild berry flavor) with some of Evie's purees.  These are an expensive habit, but whatever works for Evie!
  • Use a base like mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes or avocado, and mix in butter or olive oil or coconut oil. 

2. ADD GRAINS: OATMEAL, QUINOA, BARLEY, AMARANTH, ETC (I still don't quite know what amaranth is!).  As Evie gets less Pediasure Peptide by g-tube, we need to boost carbs. So we are adding baby oatmeal to her purees, and gradually adding more and more to increase texture exposure. She's doing great with this! Gerber makes flavored baby oatmeal in little packets, and Evie is currently enjoying apple and sweet potato flavor oatmeal in her purees.

3. OFFER BOLD TASTES: 
Try bolder tastes to "waken" the taste buds. So far Evie has not been impressed with ketchup, BBQ sauce, veggie straws, but we will keep offering her things. I've been told that we have to keep offering her these tastes even if she doesn't like them the first time around.  Other ideas:

  • Ranch dressing
  • Spicy foods
  • Hummus



4.  OFFER FOODS THAT ARE EASY TO HOLD:

  • French fries (with the ends snipped off): Evie says nope
  • Pasta
  • Bamba peanut snacks
  • shredded cheese
  • Green beans (remove the strings)
  • Mini muffins
  • Veggie Straws: Evie says nope
  • Raspberries: Evie says no to tiny little seeds
  • Banana chunks: Evie says I like to squish this, but forget eating it
  • Pieces of avocado
  • Cheerios: Evie says I like to throw these on the floor. 
  • Zucchini 
  • Shredded Cheese
  • Strawberries
  • Mango pieces
  • Puffs: Evie says "what is this dried piece of styrofoam you are putting in my mouth? ptooey!"
  • ...and jello! Evie likes to play with jello, which is awesome for food play!  She will actually eat it!



This jello stuff jiggles, Mama!



5. FOODS THAT ARE EASY TO CHEW: (Evie's not ready for this yet)

  • Baked beans
  • Diced peaches
  • Scrambled eggs (add heavy cream and cheese)
  • Cream of wheat
  • Refried beans with broth
  • Mashed potato with cream and butter
  • Scrambled eggs


6. REFRESHING DRINKS/TREATS:  Yay for summer!

  • Slushy drinks
  • Ice cream
  • Frozen custard
  • Virgin Daiquiris
  • Popsicles


7. POTENTIALLY USEFUL DEVICES (Every kid is different!)

  • Clear Solo cups (the clear cup allows the child to see when the fluid is close to their mouth)
  • Open cup with cutout like Doidy cup or Flexi Cup
  • Munchkin cup with weighted straw
  • Munchkin 360
  • Dixie cup or Medicine cup (for less travel time to mouth)
  • Honey Bear with straw (can squeeze the liquid up closer to their mouth)
  • Tilty cup (slanted bottom makes it so the baby doesn't have to tip their head back to drink)


OTHER TIPS THAT I'VE LEARNED (Thanks to multiple FB groups):

  • Have a food "picnic" every day and put different foods on the blanket and make tasting a fun thing.
  • Once the child is significantly close to fully weaned, food has to be available frequently to encourage eating.
  • Put small amounts of different types of food in an empty ice cube tray and make tasting a game.
  • Drinking is a challenge if it's hard for the child to coordinate their oral muscles.  Thickening liquids so that it's too thick to flow fast and too thin to stay stagnant in the cup makes it so the child can learn to practice swallowing at a slower pace.  Evie is practicing with applesauce and smoothies. 

A big thank you to the parents who have gone before us and are sharing their tips! Keep them coming!

Some Resources:
Mealtime Notions: some articles and tips, as well as feeding products
Feeding Tube Association: I read this site the most
Facebook group of Home-Based Weaning

*To be continued about whether 20% is good enough to induce hunger in a child who is being fed continuously by g-tube overnight and having 3 bolus feeds by day.  I had wanted to do 30% and then 50% reductions, but the doctor suggested 20% first, so we will try that and see. 

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