PROMOTING SOCIAL PLAY
So, in our previous issue (September 2021), we’ve learned that social play is a pivotal behavior necessary for developing our children’s cognition. And we all want to help develop our children’s ability to think, reason, solve problems, and learn new information. So how do we play with our kids?
Get into your child’s world. - Make three adjustments to your view of the world to see it as your child does. First, get on your child’s physical level in a face-to-face position so he or she doesn’t have to look up to see you. Second, interact by playing or communicating like your child, mimicking his or her behaviors using a playful face
to show that you are willing to interact on your child’s terms. Third, consciously strive to understand the world as your child does remembering that most experiences do not have the same meaning to your child as they do to you.
Use mirroring and parallel play to join an activity - Play face-to-face, preferably, or side-to-side with your child using the same or similar toys or acting the same way that he or she acts. Most children under 15 months of developmental age have difficulty exchanging toys with an adult during interactive play and they do not understand the rules of “give and take”.
Take one turn and wait. - Take one turn and wait for means to reduce the length of each of your interactive turns so that each interaction with your child consists of simple, discreet action or communication, whether verbal or nonverbal. While you are waiting do not do anything except give a clear visible look of anticipation for your child to take a turn.
Play face-to-face games without toys. - Use simple games with your children such as songs, nursery rhymes, hand games, and games with other parts of the body that require simple sequences in which your child can play an active role.
Imitate your child’s actions and communications. - When you imitate your child’s nonverbal or verbal communication, you are helping your child learn to use his or her early communication skills to influence others. You can imitate any behavior that your child produces. If your child has little interest in interacting with you, you can get your child’s attention by imitating him or her. Imitation has two functions. First, it helps to establish an interactive relationship with your child that is based upon what your child is doing. Second, imitation gives *your child an immediate opportunity to control what you do.
Wait with anticipation. - Expect that your child will respond. When you are waiting for your child to initiate or respond to you, show with your eyes, face, and body that you are attending and expecting a response. Wait for your child to do anything and except everything has communicative. Some children may have very slow reactions times and can take as long as 5 seconds before doing something. If your child acts like this, silently count to 5 before initiating another action or prompting him or her to respond.
Act in ways your child can act.- When you interact with your child, modify what you do and the way you do it so that your behaviors mirror the kinds of activities that your child typically does. Play with the toys and objects that your child is playing with and in the same way as your child. Match your child’s actions and talk with/to your child using words that fit your child’s actions, such as come, go, eat mom, dog, or truck. These words are more meaningful to your child and thus easier to learn.
Match your child’s interactive pace. - When you interact with your child, use a pace of interaction that is similar to your child’s pace. Your child may move at a faster pace but be slower in thinking and interpreting and you may miss connecting if you are on a faster-thinking track. On the other hand, your child may need silent time to initiate contact with you. Silent time can be a signal for your child to interact.
Using these strategies, work to get an interaction started with your child. The more you can interact with your child in true and meaningful ways, the more connected and closer you will become. Now that you can “open the door” on interaction with your child, you might be asking yourself, “how do I keep it going?” Well, you’ll have to tune in next month for a little strategy, we call “keep it
cookin” for hints on keeping your new play routines going longer.
Mahoney, Gerald, and James David MacDonald. Autism and Developmental Delays in Young Children. Pro Ed, 2007.
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