2017 Lincoln Balloon Festival
August 25th thru 27th

GiGi's Playhouse launches Down Syndrome developmental programs at Balloon Festival

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[August 28, 2017]  On Saturday from 1-4 p.m. at the Lincoln Balloon Festival, GiGi's Playhouse rolled out its programs at a community kick-off event.

GiGi's mobile pop-up, sponsored by the Down Syndrome Advocacy Group of Central Illinois, offers free therapeutic and educational programs geared toward individuals with Down Syndrome. These programs are designed for various age groups from birth through adulthood.

Gigi's Playhouse is a nationwide network of Down Syndrome Achievement Centers and is free to families because of generous donations and the support of many volunteers.

Starting in October, programming will be offered throughout the community by trained volunteers. Natalie Marquez has worked to set up the local program with the help of Hannah Rae and Jessica Howerton. Several other volunteers also assisted with Saturday's launch.

Daniell Bargstadt works to get programs started and said, "We help with the launch and then depend on local volunteers committed to bringing Gigi's Playhouse to their community."

A list of the signature programs unveiled this weekend is described on their website: https://gigisplayhouse.org.

The Language Music N' Our Peeps, or LMNOP program, is designed for children from zero through three. It teaches children basic sign language and communication through music and language based activities. Other programs help with developing gross motor and fine motor skills.

For Saturday, Bargstadt started the LMNOP program by singing "Look Who Came to Gigi's Today," inserting each of the children's names as she sang.


Next up she read "Brown Bear, Brown Bear" and had each child hold up their picture of the various animals.

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Other activities included a song where children danced with colorful scarves and passed them around the group.

The Playhouse Pals for five to eight-year-olds assists children in developing language and social skills as they interact with peers. Active games help with gross motor, fine motor, and self-help skills.

For Playhouse Pals, nine to 12 years of age, children did a relay running sponges back and forth between buckets of water.


They also bounced balls up and down as they shook a big parachute together.

The Teen Tastic program for 13 to 18-year-olds focuses on the development of social skills though team activities that help teach turn-taking and problem solving.

The Fantastic Friends program for those age 18 and above, supports the development of social skills and language through interacting with peers in activities they plan themselves. Games, dancing, and community outings are some of the activities.

To introduce these programs, Janell Woolard led families in Zumba with everyone dancing to the beat of well-known pop songs.

Information stations displayed some of the other programs offered. Jennifer Parsons from the Quad Cities works with the math and literacy programs. These programs meet 45 minutes once a week for ten weeks and materials are sent home for families to work on.

These are just part of the dozens of therapy based programs that help with development.

Anne Marie Brown, who helped get families signed up, said over fifteen families registered.

To learn more about what is offered, go to the site: https://gigisplayhouse.org/ programs-2

[Angela Reiners]

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