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Why Teach Through Play?

July 5, 2020

Beautiful toddler sitting on the floor playing with building blocks toys at kindergarten

Your child does not always have to have a bright and shiny new toy to create learning opportunities. Engaging in sensory social routines is one way to teach through play without the use of objects. Sensory social routines are activities where you and your child are face to face and happily engaged in a social activity, like tag/chase, wheels on the bus, if you’re happy and you know it, or piggy back rides.

Incorporating sensory social routines into play will motivate your child to communicate with you to either continue the activity or change the activity. Sensory social routines can also help regulate your child’s emotions, energy, and/or arousal levels to help prepare your child to be alert and attentive to you.

All children are unique, and each child has his or her own unique challenges, interests, and disinterests. Many children affected by ASD Autism have challenges paying attention, engaging in social play with peers, using gestures and language, taking turns, imitation, eye contact, and playing with toys in a specific way. These can all by addressed through play by finding your child’s “spotlight”.

Your child’s “spotlight” includes your child’s interests and preferences (a highly preferred toy or a highly preferred activity). By focusing on your child’s “spotlight”, and engaging in play with your child’s favorite toy and/or activity, you can create motivating learning situations in which your child is more likely to attend to you and interact with you. For example, let us say your child’s favorite activity is bubbles.

You are blowing the bubbles and your child is smiling, looking at you, looking at the bubbles, reaching for the bubbles, and anticipating the bubbles. We can use the bubbles as motivation to develop your child’s current communication (smiling, looking, reaching, anticipating) into clear gestures, words, or sentences by providing your child with the communication opportunities. You can do this by modeling gestures (pointing, sign language, facial expressions) and words like, “Bubbles” “Again” “Pop”. “Happy” “My turn/Your turn.”.

When your child is interacting and attending to you through a preferred toy and/or activity, they are also learning from YOU.