Now more than ever play skills are important. With many children being home from school or on virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is much more down time. While children would love to spend all day playing or watching videos on their tablets, many parents do not feel the same way.
Spending more time at home playing doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go buy new toys. It may take some creativity, but you can use toys or everyday objects that you already have in new ways.
For example, you can use Mr. Potato Head for more than just putting together the character. Mr. Potato Head can go shopping for new accessories, he can have a fashion show, he can go to the doctor to have a body part fixed, etc. He can also interact with other characters who maybe he hasn’t “met” before.
A simple laundry basket can be transformed into a rocket ship, a race car, a train, a boat, or even a safari!
Playing is not only fun for your child but can be educational as well. While acting out a scene, your child can work on requesting objects, labeling objects, following directions, answering questions, engaging in conversation and many other areas of development. Using existing toys in new ways is a great way to work on decreasing rigidity. Don’t be afraid to be silly!
In ABA, we refer to this as Natural Environment Training. Learning doesn’t have to always occur sitting at a table. You can use objects that your child is interested in to teach new skills. The activity itself will be fun and engaging for your child which will increase their motivation. When motivation is high, learning becomes more meaningful.
This website is a great resource for ideas for how to use existing toys or objects in creative ways to expand upon play skills. https://paradigmbehavior.com/playroom The “Play Scripts” section has specific activities that can be used for various toys and objects. It also gives examples of how to incorporate learning opportunities into playing and fun.