The game is one of the best tools to promote learning for the youngest, as well as to stimulate and enhance all kinds of cognitive abilities and skills. Through these leisure and fun activities we find a way not only to entertain the children but also to stimulate their intellect and strengthen ties with them.

In addition, games as a means of stimulating cognitive abilities are one of the best resources in the case of children with some kind of special physical or psychological condition such as Down syndrome. In these children, it is very important to stimulate certain mental functions to encourage their use.

Throughout this article we will present a series of activities for children with Down syndrome .

The importance of play in Down syndrome

As mentioned earlier, play is essential at all stages of child development. The reason for this is that is not only useful for entertaining children and making them have fun , but also because it promotes the correct development of personality and cognitive skills.

Through play, all children learn to know themselves as well as everything around them, including other people. They acquire all kinds of knowledge about their bodies and how objects, tools and utensils work.

As a general rule, children without any special health or psychological conditions have the ability to learn to play on their own, although doing so with an adult strengthens the ability to interact with others as well as the bonds between them. However, this is not the same for children with Down syndrome.

In these cases the children do not usually present this initiative of their own when they start the game , so the collaboration and support of another person is recommended. Due to the physical and psychological characteristics of this syndrome, the child may show certain difficulties in learning to play.

As a result, the amount of time and effort invested in enhancing play is essential to fostering all kinds of cognitive skills; from personal autonomy to language, attention and psychomotor skills.

During the first months of life, it is advisable to start play routines without the need to use toys . In this way, through the gestures, expressions and words of the adult we favour the development of the capacity of representation and symbolisation.

Children with Down syndrome require special play dynamics that emphasize these gestures and oral language, so that through imitation they can learn to make the appropriate gestures and movements. Finally, when introducing games with objects and materials, the adult should guide the child to teach him/her to use these tools correctly.

Recommended activities by age

As with other children, each stage of life of a child with Down syndrome is characterised by the acquisition and development of a series of skills , so it is recommended that games are adapted to these periods of childhood.

1. Children between 1 and 2 years old

For younger children with Down syndrome, it is recommended to propose these games.

  • When they stand up, place toys or other eye-catching objects that motivate them to move around.
  • Holding hands with coloured balls for him to shoot.
  • Construction of towers and manipulative games .
  • Creative games with paints or waxes suitable for their age
  • Games to group colors, animals or objects.
  • Reading of children’s stories with illustrations and drawings. Ask the child about the drawings.
  • Ask the child to use speech and words to ask for things.

2. Children between 2 and 3 years old

In this category of children, the type of activities proposed are the following.

  • Mobility games and coordination with balls
  • Manipulative games like creating figures with plasticine.
  • Listening and naming sounds in the environment.
  • Guessing games .

Activities according to cognitive area

From the age of 3, a child with Down syndrome usually has the language and motor skills necessary to perform a large number of activities with them. From this age onwards, it is advisable to play games that enhance each and every one of the cognitive abilities .

Below we present a series of activities classified according to the cognitive area they aim to stimulate in children with Down syndrome.

1. Stimulation of psychomotor skills

Games that promote the development of gross and fine motor skills help to strengthen the muscles of the hands and extremities, which forms the basis for the development of their own autonomy.

1.1. Passing the ball through the hoop

The game consists of placing a series of balls and hoops of different sizes for the child to catch and to shoot each ball into the corresponding hoop . We can also try to make sure that the balls and the hoops are the same color so that the child also has to guess which ball goes in which place.

1.2. Guessing the shape

This exercise is very useful to promote fine motor skills as well as memory and attention. To do this, we provide the child with a sheet with a series of lines of dots that he has to join by punching .

The child should tap the outline of the drawing trying not to get out. Then we can ask the child what shape or object it is.

2. Language Stimulation

As well as the ability to move autonomously, the empowerment of language skills is essential in children with Down syndrome in order to gain greater independence.

2.1. Theatre and performance activities

In order to work on language fluency, memory and interaction with other people, we can stage small plays or theatres in which the child must recite small lines or phrases. We can also ask him to read excerpts from texts aloud while gesturing.

These stories can show scenes from everyday life, as this will also give the child the ability to improvise.

3. Attention and memory stimulation

Encouraging attention in children with Down’s syndrome will favour their interaction with the environment and enhance other skills such as memory and language.

3.1. Storytelling

These are activities in which an adult reads or tells a story that is interesting or pleasing to the child. The aim is then to ask or to be asked to tell his or her version of the story in order to encourage attention and memory and information retrieval processes.

3.2. Matching cards face down

In this activity we will have a deck of cards whose drawings can be matched two by two. The cards are placed in front of the child face down and we ask him/her to match the cards.

The cards can only be raised once at a time, so the child must remember where each of the drawings is located in order to match them .

4. Stimulation of autonomy

Throughout the child’s life, he will be presented with a large number of situations in which the fact of enjoying great autonomy will allow him to be independent and to be able to carry out all kinds of activities and interactions by himself.

4.1. We play shopping

The games and representations that involve simulating activities of daily life such as making any purchase will allow the child to learn how to interact in such situations, as well as giving him/her autonomy when making transactions with coins and banknotes, and managing his/her own money.

This can be done by playing shop or market, using notes and coins that the child can make himself or by using toys such as children’s cash registers.