At Unlocking The Spectrum, we believe that kids are kids, and an essential component of that is play! Playing is a large part of each of our clients’ days and programs for multiple reasons. First, we want our clients to have fun and be happy! Aside from the joy of this approach, it sets everyone up for improved rapport building and a better environment for learning. Furthermore, there is actually evidence to support that children learn better when they are actively engaged in social contexts that are meaningful to them.
There are a few simple techniques for successfully playing with our clients. First, play should always be child-led. Watch your child and see what interests them. What toys do they engage with? We focus on following the child’s lead, rather than trying to get them to engage with a specific toy, or with a toy in a way that might be interesting to us or someone else. What makes them smile or otherwise shows they are happy?
An easy way to engage in child-led play is to imitate what the child is doing as they are playing. From there, see what you can add to the play to make it even more exciting by providing narration, fun sound effects and help to fulfill the child’s agenda while they play. For example, if your child is playing with cars, try making them go extra fast, crash into each other, or go down a ramp. If your child is playing with Play-Doh, mix some colors or get out a cup to use as a cookie cutter. As you are contributing to your child’s play, make sure you are paying attention to how your child reacts to your narration, sound effects, and play. Find their smile and let that be your guide!