Preemies often wait a long time to start playing. NICU life isn’t about fun, it is about survival. Once your preemie is home, you will want to get the party started. If she has a weak grasp or isn’t coordinated enough to easily hold every rattle and toy that you got for your shower, you might want to consider the O-ball to develop visual-motor skills.
This is the basic O-Ball, a great toy that I recommend for my 1-4 month clients. I also recommend the next generation O-ball toys, such as the O-ball car, for equally easy grasp with my slightly older preemie or developmentally delayed kids.
Why do I like this ball over cloth balls or those bumpy sensory balls?
- The web-like design allows a child to hold it with almost any type of grasp. Low muscle tone, spasticity, or weakness reduce a baby’s ability to grasp and retain a toy. It just isn’t fun if your toy keeps falling out of your hand.
- Texture, but not too much texture. The plastic is a little bit grippy, so it doesn’t fall out of her hand like a smooth plastic ball, but not so textured that a sensitive infant would find it overstimulating. Preemies sometimes leave the NICU a little overwhelmed by sensation, and yet many need the extra touch input to really feel what is in their hands. This ball is a good balance of tactile inputs.
- Fun at a fraction of the weight. A baby that has strength or tone issues needs lightweight toys to pick it up easily and continue to hold it as gravity pulls the ball down and out of his hand.
- The O-ball is large enough and light enough for 2-handed grasp, an important developmental milestone. As an OT, we know that using two hands at midline (the center of your body) supports all the other movements that require a sense of moving around a center…rolling, crawling and walking! Start now to develop awareness of midline and two-handed activity.
- Second and third generation O-balls have built-in rattles and are more colorful than this one. None have sharp edges or pieces that can fall out. Safety first.
- Did you say “Spit up”? Wipes clean in an instant.
- It is a bit squishy, which means it will bend, not break. If your child drops it on her face or on the floor, she might cry from surprise but not from injury.
- It will still be fun to play with next year. This ball will still be fun to roll and throw later on in life, unlike those rattles that will be tossed out in a few months.
Here is another great post for parents of NICU graduates: Baby Wearing for Premature Babies
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