Monday, April 21, 2014

Play Therapy Part 2

Welcome back for a few more tidbits about Play Therapy!

I love good ideas, and some of the best sources for good ideas come from other family's trial and errors. I can't even count how many inspirations I've gotten from reading blogs by other moms, from experiences of friends, and many other nifty suggestions from different ones. Often we tweak these and tailor them specifically to our own family's needs. Sometimes they work awesome, sometimes only so so, others not so well, or we put it on our maybe later list.

Below is an idea I got from another mom, whose daughter is autistic, from her post about using our kids stims to help them learn new skills. Kitty Bitty loves things that spin so I loved this idea as soon as I saw it. I liked the simplicity of this set, and figured it might be a good way to encourage her to let the big kids help, and eventually she might enjoy it more independently.

She has fun telling me which gears to add, though she adamantly refuses to use certain ones, still haven't figured out why.

But mostly she likes fitting the base squares together. Which is fine, especially if it keeps her content and occupied for a little while. She still needs help with putting them in the right direction at times, but she is only two and the age guide is for 3+ so I don't expect her to play with it fully independently yet.

Puzzles! These are great tools for making her interact with me. I keep the pieces as she removes them and she has to look at me and ask for them back. She has the tendency to remain absorbed in her activity and just hold out a hand point to what she wants. Now that her speech is well on it's way, she does use verbal requests, but she still doesn't tend to look at us as much unless it's something she really wants. So this is good practice to remind her to look in our direction when she wants our attention. I encourage eye contact and reward it with great enthusiasm, but that is not a requirement to get what she is requesting. When she is having a good day and is well organized in her body and brain, she makes lots of eye contact. If she's having a rough day, forcing eye contact only causes her more discomfort and further disrupts her process of trying to communicate. This is not a big deal for me, as even I am often overwhelmed by extensive or intense eye contact, so I have no desire to force it with her, especially if she clearly shows that she is otherwise communicating and engaging.  

Kitty fits perfectly in the basket, just like puzzle pieces together! And he seems to like it too!

The train set combines several aspects from above. It's pieces fit together in puzzle like ways, but are not in any set way, so she has plenty of freedom to experiment and lessens frustration. The trains motivate her by their linear movements along the track as well as their spinning wheels, but it has the added perk of helping reinforce the real life lesson that trains drive forward and back on tracks. This understanding helps her translate to other toys with less specific guides like toy cars, that they also can be used to "drive" like real cars, instead of just being lined up or sorted.

And sometimes she just likes to make the train go back and forth under the bridge over an over and over!

For a long time she was only interested in throwing sand, so I made up an hide and seek game with a little Dora character that had broken off the handle of Grace's umbrella. I would bury Dora in the sand while Kit watched, then I would ask, "Where's Dora?" The first several attempts at this game she just stood there looking at the spot that I had buried Dora, or at me like I was crazy. After a few seconds, I would move the sand off of Dora and pull her out, "here she is!" After a few such demonstrations, Kit would point at the spot where Dora was buried. Then with some more encouragement she would sweep some of the sand away. It wasn't very long before this was one of her favorite games, and in fact the only thing she would do in the sandbox, but I had to be right there, and I had to do it with her.

Gradually though, she started to bury Dora herself, ask "where's Dora?" and then dig her out, "there she is!" It is adorable! Now she even uses the shovels to did and bury Dora, and to dig her out, which has led to her using the shovels to fill the buckets and containers, carry sand to the water bucket to make "soup", and to carry water to the sandbox to watch the sand suck it up. Of course, she still loves to throw sand, and she has also discovered that the shovels make light work out of pouring sand all over one's own head. Oh joy.

Hiding surprises in her putty is a great sensory activity, sharpens fine motor skills, and is just plain fun as well! This batch held a couple of plastic bugs, a spinning top, and...CANDY!!

There are so many more activities the list could go on and on. I'll try to keep snapping pictures and will periodically try to post new activities that we have tried. I hope that they can maybe provide some ideas and insights for other families out there. The great thing about all of these also, is that they do great things for all kids, and most of us can always use a few more suggestions to keep our kiddos busy and happy!

Happy Playing!

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