Get into the Swing of Swinging.

Swing setMost kids love the swings, even if it’s just getting into the bucket seat or graduating to the banana seat.  Getting kids to learn how to swing themselves can be a bit tricky and frustrating.  Here is a tip to get them going.  Once you get your child swinging, kneel in front of them with your arms extended outward and your palms toward the child.  Ask them to touch your hands with their feet.  When they do, give them a good push backwards, emphasizing bend legs as the verbal cue.  This will help to reinforce that bent knee position.  As they come towards you, legs out or touch my hands are good verbal cues to get that fun push backwards. 



It Takes a War

Susie playing cardsEveryone knows how to play War, the world’s simplest card game, right?  Thanks to Susie, I sure do.  Over twenty plus years we played hundreds of games.  War may be simplistic, but with Susie it anchored our relationship. In addition to sparking countless hours of together time, it helped me have a verbal relationship with a non-verbal individual. I became an expert:  Her furrowed brow of concentration when laying down cards, to her grin after each of her winning cards.  The lived for moment, though, was when Susie won the rare double tiebreaker.  Her grin quickly morphed into a full faced smile and culminated in a heartfelt happiness laugh that allowed me to glimpse pure joy.  Simple?  Maybe on the surface, but thanks to Susie, a lifelong lesson for me to always look deeper.

The Friendship Book

The friendship bookSeveral years ago my SLP introduced a great way for my class of kiddo’s to learn classmate names and other special information. We ask each student, or their parents, for their favorite food, toy and place. Each student has a dedicated page in a Friendship Book.” Their page consists of their photo and photos of their favorites. Each student is given their own Friendship Book to take home to read. Several copies are also put in the classroom library. The kids love reading about their friends and learning their likes. They especially enjoy finding when their favorites match a friend’s. 

When the students know everyone’s name, we cover up the photo. The kids guess who it is, based on the likes. We also use it to practice asking and answering questions. For example, based on a picture of the friend’s likes, the student has to think of a question to ask. If his friend likes Disneyland he might ask, “What is your favorite ride?” It is a great tool for students to learn about each other and to engage the class in a variety of learning activities.

Toys in the Middle

Toys in the MiddleTransitioning from summer play all by yourself to playing with others at school is tough for our children. A simple way to introduce opportunities for group play is to place toys in the middle, kids on the outside, with children around a common set of toys and facing each other. Whenever a child looks up from play and sees someone, it is a brief social opportunity.  Slowly increase the time you expect a child to play near peers.  Transition them to group play by including a preferred toy in the shared set.  Opportunities for teaching group play: in the sandbox with toys, on the floor with cars and blocks, or at the table with play-dough.

Besides creating opportunities, what else? If you want to sustain play, join in!  Model functional use of the toys by pushing the car or rolling the play-dough.  Add simple language or sound effects.  Enjoy the moment.  If you are not having fun, the child probably isn’t either. I love to tell people that I get paid to play. More info?  Please comment = )

Our Hostess with the Mostest

Our hostess with the mostestTo help our daughter with autism get excited about starting another school year we have a big family Back to School Party in which we decorate using tons of pictures taped around the house: of her favorite school events from the year before, school friends, old teacher, new teacher, the school, playground, new classroom, etc. and we encourage our older guests to ask her plenty of questions about them. Also, we play a school supply themed scavenger hunt game and then she gets to play hostess, passing out cake she made. Our family looks forward to this every year as my daughter delights in being the expert and having her support team so actively interested in her school days! 

Boo! Ring-around-the-Ghost

Ring-around-the-GhostEach month our preschool classrooms target a group social game. We teach games step-by-step, but our goal is to keep it F-U-N. We began this several years ago, and received feedback from parents that it was helping our kids be more successful at birthday and family parties- a great bonus.

This month’s game is “Ring-around-the-Ghost,”a version of Ring-around-the-Rosie.(Special thanks, SurfMama.) We play this after lunch, a good time for giggling. Goals for most social games include sustained participation, orienting to the group activity, anticipating one’s turn, turn taking, learning to be a good loser, cheering on friends, and following the rules.We build in tangible and social reinforcement at high rates for those demonstrating targeted skills. It is amazing how quickly these are learned.

We begin with the ghost standing in the middle and looking through a simple ghost mask with cutout eyes. We make our own masks using die-cut ghosts on popsicle sticks. The ghost looks at their friends and teachers circling around, holding hands, and singing the familiar tune: Ring- around- the- Ghost. Who will he scare the most? Spooky- spooky. The ghost says, Boo!

For preschoolers, saying Boo! is pure fun.Unlike Rosie, no one falls down. The child or teacher that the ghost is looking at when the singing stops simply becomes the next ghost in the middle.

This game also provides an opportunity to facilitate a child’s understanding of looking at the speaker and the importance of gaze direction.At early stages, we actually take time to draw an imaginary line and connect the ghost’s body orientation and gaze direction to the next ghost. We ask, Who is the ghost looking at? and give high fives as everyone guesses.As a SLP, this is an important nonverbal and social communicative behavior to understand. When a teacher’s orientation is not to the child, it signals, are not my turn now.This is a critical building block to understanding that do not interrupt my teacher now. I need to wait. She is talking to someone else.

Ring-around-the-Ghost. Enjoy.And, “Boo!”

Large Group Social Game- “Timber!”

TimberTo the tune of “The Wheels on the Bus…, while seated on a carpet in a large circle, the group sang “Building blocks go round and round… let’s make a road/ wall/ tower.”Blocks were passed one at a time in a circle. The person holding the block at the song’s end, placed the block in the middle. We used large cardboard blocks for a more dramatic effect when they fell over- Timber!- a class favorite. We allowed the blocks to fall AFTER all the blocks were placed. A simple and fun group game! Thanks to two of my very dear SLP colleagues for their help inventing this way to introduce a social game to a preschool curriculum.


BONUS: This idea can be used either in the classroom or at home.