How to Teach Play Skills to a Child With Autism

Play skills are one of the most important areas that children, especially those with Autism, need to learn. These skills provide opportunities for the child to entertain themselves in meaningful ways, interact with others, and learn important cognitive skills. A successful way to teach play skills to children with autism is to initially teach the specific play skill in a very structured manner. Play Skills

  • Break the play skill into small, discrete steps and teach one step at a time. As the child demonstrates success in learning one step, add the next step. (After the child can add eyes to Mr. Potato Head, then add ears, then arms, etc.)
  • Use modeling to teach the skill (e.g. the adult builds a tower of Legos as the child watches, then the child builds his own tower).
  • Always provide reinforcement (behavior specific praise “Nice job putting the piece in the puzzle”, immediately following the child’s demonstration of the skill.). As the child exhibits improved accuracy of the skill, reinforce successive approximations.
  • The child should have plenty of opportunities to rehearse the skill in a structured setting. Practice, practice, practice!
  • In the structured setting, have the learning opportunities be short and sweet, so the task does not become aversive to the child.
  • Fade the adult prompting and presence out gradually, so the child can gain more independence. Systematically fade the reinforcement so that it is provided after longer durations.
  • Remember to keep the activity fun and exciting. You want your child to WANT to play with the toys and games.

Once the child masters the skill in the structured environment by independently completing the play tasks for extended periods of time, he or she can then begin to practice and develop the skill in more natural settings. Bring the toys and games into other rooms of the house, to school, and eventually have peers present, so the child can use the skills learned in a social setting.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Gravitational Insecurity and Recess

Gravitational insecurity is a term that means an excessive fear of ordinary movement. Blog-Gravitational Insecurity-Main-LandscapeIt can also be characterized by a child being uncomfortable in any position other than upright, or fear of having one’s feet off the ground. Gravitational insecurity is a form of over-responsiveness to vestibular input. This input is detected by the Otolith organs, located in the inner ear. These organs detect movement through space as well as the pull of gravity.

Recess is a common time you may notice children having difficulties with gravitational insecurities.

Here are some common red flags that may indicate your kiddo is having difficulty with gravitational insecurity:

  • Avoidance of playground equipment that kids of similar age enjoy
  • Avoidance of swings
  • Fear of heights or uneven surfaces
  • Overwhelmed by changes in head position
  • Fear of having their feet off the ground
  • Overly hesitant on slides
  • Has difficulty tilting their head back to look up at monkey bars

If you notice your child exhibiting some of the red flags listed above, they would likely benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation and treatment focusing on sensory integration. Throughout therapy your child will receive graded vestibular information through a multisensory approach. Slowly, they will learn to integrate and process sensory information more effectively.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Deerfield, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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Play Based Therapy – 5 Things to Consider When Playing at Home

  1. Choose toys and activities a child likes.blog-play-therapy-main-landscape
    • Use toys or objects the child enjoys to increase the likelihood that they will pay attention.
    • Read the child’s cues to determine when or if the attention is waning and provide them with options of other preferred items.
    • It is okay to have them complete “one more turn” before having them clean up.
    • Create a regular clean up routine after play time. Create or use a fun clean up song!
  2. Allow a child to take the lead in choosing toys- but this doesn’t mean you need to give them free rein all the time!
    • Offer acceptable choices- this is a happy medium between letting the child do what they want all the time and the adult determining what the child plays.
    • By providing choices, it gives an opportunity for the child to respond and communicate (and they feel like they are in control!).
    • If possible, choose activities that the child is able to move and does not have to sit still or at a table the whole time moving helps the child to be more attentive or focused!
  3. Imitate a child’s actions and use specific labels to address what the child is doing or attending to at the moment.
    • Over time, it is hoped that the child enjoys the repetition of the words and actions, then will begin to repeat an action he sees you complete (i.e. “Jump, Jump!” “You are jumping!)- Make sure you are face-to-face with the child, so that they know that you are talking about exactly what they are doing.
    • Simply state an object or an event name during the child’s play (i.e. “Ball” or “You found a ball”).
    • Try to stay away from talking too much or narrating too much information (i.e. It looks like you found something. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to bounce or throw it?) Depending on the child’s age, this kind of narration is likely above the language-level for the child.
    • Try to avoid asking the child questions!
  4. Use prompts to elicit attention with verbal visual cues (i.e. Look!)
    • Point to where you want the child to attend or focus.
    • Gaining the child’s attention is the first thing that needs to occur before they are expected to learn anything.
  5. Reinforce attention either naturally or artificially.
    • Pick reinforcements that are motivating for your child!
    • Reinforcing a child’s communicative attempts may include allowing them to play with a toy or finish eating a snack that he/she requested.
    • Depending on the child, stickers or suckers may be just the perfect reinforcement as well!

Reference

Mize, L. (2011). Teach Me To Talk! Shelbyville, KY: Teachmetotalk.com

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee! If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Play: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child Develop Better Peer Interactions

Imagine that you go to work in the morning and spend your entire day not knowing how to navigate thePlay Skills parameters of your workplace. You’re unsure of your job description, title, and workplace culture….and no one will give you any answers. By the end of the day, you feel utterly exhausted merely as a result of attempting to navigate a world with no structure or boundaries. Now, imagine you’re a child.  This is how children with limited play skills might feel as they are expected to respond to situations for which they don’t have the skillset each time they come in contact with a peer.

Play is the single most important mechanism children utilize to learn about their universe.  Play provides a framework to explain imaginative and real events in a child’s world. It allows them to learn about independence, manners, and character, as well as build confidence and practice new skills. Yet, some children have difficulty learning how to properly navigate these interactions.

The good news? You can help.

Play at Any Age

Play skills are developed in a progression.  Although there are times in which a child may fluctuate between all levels of play, the following indicates the age-appropriate development of peer interactions.

Solitary play (ages 0-2): Child is completely captivated with play and does not seem to notice other children.

  • Learns through trial and error
  • Copies other children and adults
  • Looks at other children playing but does not join in the play
  • Likes playing with adults as well as by himself/herself

Onlooker play (2-2 ½): Child is interested in other children’s play but does not join in. He/she may ask questions.

Parallel play (2 ½- 3):   Child shares the same space with peers but doesn’t actively engage with them.

  • Begins to use symbols in his play, such as using a stick as a sword
  • Starts to show some reasoning skills… may still learn by trial and error.
  • Copies other children and adults’ behaviors and language

Associative play (3-4): Child is interested in pursuing social interactions with peers while they play.

  • Shows more reasoning skills
  • Begins to ask “why” and “how” questions
  • Plays imaginatively, for instance, dress-up

Cooperative play (4+): Children play in groups of two or more with a common goal in mind; they often adopt roles and act as a group.

  • Shows understanding and uses reason related to experience
  • Begins to understand simple rules in games
  • Plays cooperatively, taking turns

Should I Be Concerned About My Child’s Play Skills?

Typical play:

  • Spontaneous
  • Flexible: child can add onto others’ play schemas*, play story** can change throughout, child does not become distraught if a peer/parent adds their ideas
  • Creative
  • Voluntary
  • Internally Reinforcing
  • Functional
  • Age-Appropriate

Atypical or Disordered Play:

  • Ritualistic: child engages with toy in the same order/manner, every time he/she plays with toy
  • Difficulty with Generalizations: child has difficulty accepting new patterns or rules, attempts to utilize one general rule for all similar events (i.e. “I know the youngest person goes first in Sorry, so I expect that the youngest person goes first in all games.”)
  • Non-functional
  • Repetitive: child performs the same action repetitively with a toy that doesn’t suit its purpose, ie. flipping, stacking, ordering items or repeats the same phrase over & over again while engaging
  • Limited Interests: child frequently finds a way to steer play story to a few favorite interests
  • Rigid: may accept when parents and peers join his/her play schema, but only by child’s rules and with his/her interests
  • Difficulty “bouncing back” from unexpected events in play: may recoil when a peer introduces a dinosaur, for example, when child expected story to progress in a certain direction. May become upset at changes or quit altogether
  • Avoids eye contact, or eye contact may be fleeting
  • Often requires prompting for basic communication, i.e. saying hello when approached by peer
  • Often includes non-reciprocal language: response frequently does not match question
  • Difficult for child to enter into an already-developed play scheme: two peers are pretending to be firemen, third child wants to join but can only talk about/pretend to be a doctor

*Play schema: diagrammatic presentation; a structured framework or plan 

**Play story: the story that is told through the play schema

Parent How-To Guide

If your child has underdeveloped play skills, here are some ways to assist in his/her development to encourage parallel, associative, and cooperative play:

  1. Provide Opportunities
  • Allow your child time for free play with same-aged peers
    • Don’t “helicopter” parent during free play, but provide modeling if necessary
    • Provide plenty of materials to encourage imaginary play, i.e. dress-up clothes, pretend food, cash register
    • Encourage symbolic play: child engages in imaginary play with an item and calls it something else, i.e. uses a banana as a telephone
  1. Model Feelings & Behavior to Encourage Problem-Solving
  • Provide your child with words to explain feelings
    • “Jimmy, it looks like you’re sad because Sally isn’t sharing her toy with you. Let’s tell Sally how you’re feeling together.”
    • If your child is old enough, encourage him to use the words himself. “Jimmy, you can say, ‘Sally, I am sad because I want to play with that toy too.’”
    • Starting your modeling sentences with the phrase “you can say…” is a very powerful way to neutrally provide your child with the words he/she may not know how to express
  • Provide your child with options for independent problem-solving
    • “Jimmy, do you want to wait until Sally is done with the toy or ask her if she can share it with you?”
    • This allows the child to choose between 2 options and learn to find solutions independently
  1. Set Expectations. Especially if your child demonstrates rigid behavior!
  • Be sure to set expectations before engaging in task
    • “Jimmy, we are going to the playground. At the playground, I expect you to play properly with friends. That means sharing the equipment, speaking nicely, and waiting your turn.”
  1. Give Positive Reinforcement
  • Encourage proper behavior and play skills by offering both natural consequences and praise.
    • Consequence, stated before engaging in task: “Jimmy, if you don’t follow the rules we discussed at the playground, we will need to go home immediately.”
    • Praise, stated after task is completed: “Jimmy, way to go! You followed all the rules by taking your turn and speaking nicely to your new friends. I’m proud of you.”

Seek Outside Help

If your child doesn’t seem to improve with these at-home tips, seek the assistance of an occupational or developmental therapist for hands-on support for both you and your child.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!

References:

  • Parten, M. (1933). Social play among preschool children. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28, 136-147.
  • http://www.child-development-guide.com/stages-of-play-during-child-development.html
  • http://brighttots.com/teaching_playskills.html
  • http://www.erinoakkids.ca/ErinoakKids/media/EOK_Documents/Autism_Resources/Teaching-Play-Skills.pdf
  • http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-development/play-work-of-children/pl2/

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Autism Friendly Activities in Milwaukee

With school out, parents may have mixed feelings about the summer ahead. What will my child do all Milwaukeeday? How can I keep them entertained? What can I fill their time with educationally since they are not in school? Well, fear not parents, there are a lot of fun, but educational activities you can do for your child with autism this summer in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

Mayfair Mall’s AMC movie theater features a few sensory friendly films each month, ranging from animated kid’s movies to action/thrillers. During the films, they keep the lights on and turn the volume down, which allows families safe access to the bathroom and alleviates any sensory tolerance concerns. Follow the link below for a listing of the upcoming films.

https://www.amctheatres.com/programs/sensory-friendly-films

Betty Brinn Children’s Museum

Betty Brinn Children’s museum has several rooms filled with educational toys as well as a rotating seasonal exhibit for your child to explore. Betty Brinn Children’s museum understands that access to educational and social opportunities for children with special needs can be difficult. As a result, they created a Family Focus Membership, that families can apply for, that provides free access to the museum for children with autism. If your application is accepted, you will need to attend a mandatory class at the museum, but then you will be given free access to the museum for a year. Follow the link below for more information on the Family Focus Membership.

http://www.bbcmkids.org/

Kids in Motion

Kids in Motion is an indoor play area for all children. They have several themed rooms with a variety of educational toys, a snack counter, and a main gym area that has a slide, tubes to climb in, and a roped in ball area. Kids in Motion in Brookfield, WI offers half off admission on Sundays for special needs families, which includes half off admission for siblings that are not on the spectrum. Follow the link below for more information on Kids in Motion.

http://www.kidsinmotionwi.com/

YMCA- programs for special needs kids

Several local YMCAs offer programs for all children, including special needs children, during the summer months. Whether you are looking for a class or all day summer camp, the YMCA has several different opportunities for children with special needs. If you are looking for a baseball camp, a great option is the Miracle League of Milwaukee, which accepts all children regardless of ability or prior experience. Follow the link below for more information on the Miracle League of Milwaukee.

http://www.miracleleaguemilwaukee.org/

While all of these options are affordable or free, there are several other great activities you can take part in Milwaukee with your child, such as the Milwaukee County Zoo or attending one of the many festivals Milwaukee has. In addition, Milwaukee County Parks are always free and can be fun for daily trips or to the Farmer’s Markets. While the summer months can seem long, keep all of these great opportunities in mind as you plan your summer months.

NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

To schedule an Applied Behavior Analysis assessment, complete the form here.

Video Games That Get You Moving

Getting your child off the couch and active can be challenging. With video games and iPads, it can be hard to pry your child away from the screens. But what if the screens can work for you? There are many video games on various systems that get your body moving, heart rate up, and can be a lot of fun!

Here are a few games on different systems that will surely make your child break a sweat while having a great time!Blog-Video-Games-Main-Portrait

  1. Xbox – Kinect Sports

Kinect Sports uses a sensor to track your body movements while playing fun sports games including soccer, volleyball, baseball and more. Unlike other systems that only track your upper body, Kinect Sports also tracks your legs for a full body workout!

If you are looking for more intense activities, try Track and Field. Go for the gold in sprints, hurdles, the long jump, and discus – you’ll feel like you’re in the Olympics!

  1. Wii Sports

Wii Sports uses a wand controller to simulate the real game. This systems features games like baseball, golf, tennis, boxing and bowling. The greatest part: you can play against a friend!

  1. PlayStation Move + Eye

The PlayStation Move is a wand controller that works with the PlayStation Eye camera to track the player’s movements. Because some of the games use both the wand and the Eye, you will be put into the game, literally! The PlayStation Move features games such as soccer, tennis, bowling, golf, dancing, and more.

  1. Just Dance – Xbox 360, Wii and PlayStation

Just Dance is compatible with many systems that use a camera to track your movements. You can dance with three of your friends to today’s top hits and yesterday’s classics. This is my personal favorite to have fun and exercise in a creative way.

Now that you have a list of some awesome, fun games for your home system, it’s time to get active and move your body!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Springtime Activities in the Suburbs

After a long and dreary winter, it’s finally springtime in Chicago! With warmer weather on the way and Blog-springtime-activities-Main-Landscapesummer just around the corner, parents and children alike are looking forward to heading back outdoors for springtime activities. While the city has endless parks, museums, and theaters to choose from, the north shore and western suburbs also have a plethora of well-known play places, as well as hidden gems for suburban families. If you are looking for a quick answer to the “What are we doing today?” question, here are some great places that your kids will love! All of the locations mentioned would be fantastic places for both toddlers, as well as older children to discover.

If you are looking for a little inspiration for your budding Picasso, or your superstar just needs to burn off some additional energy, here are some great locations for the arts as well as sports-themed venues.

Arts & Sports:

Color Me Mine – Glenview

Sunshine Arts & Crafts – Highland Park

Art Reach – Palatine/Schaumberg

Marriott Theater – Lincolnshire

Fairytale Ballet & Academy – Evanston

Hi Five Sports Camp – Highland Park

Rec Center of Highland Park

North Suburban YMCA – Northbrook

Arctic Splash – Wheeling

Splash Landings – Glenview

Key Lime Cove – Gurnee

Big Blue Swim School – Select locations

Foss Swim School – Select locations

If your family is still recovering from the cabin fever experience all winter long, below are some great fun and educational locations you can explore.

Educational/Farms:

Kohl Children’s Museum – Glenview

DuPage Children’s Museum – Naperville

Chicago Botanic Garden – Glencoe

Lambs Farm – Libertyville

Wagner Farm – Glenview

Elawa Farm – Lake Forest

Morton Arboretum – Lisle

Cantigny Park – Wheaton

The Grove – Glenview

Independence Grove – Libertyville

Cosley Zoo – Wheaton

Naper Settlement – Naperville

Spring Valley Nature Center – Schaumburg

Since the start of spring brought Chicagoans a few additional snowy days, springtime weather can be somewhat unpredictable. Below are some suggestions of places to visit when the weather turns sour.

Indoor Play Places:

The Chicago TreeHouse – Lake Zurich

Little Beans – Evanston

Jammin’ Jungle – Highland Park

Gymboree – Select locations

Pump It Up – Select locations

Jump Zone – Buffalo Grove

Lego Land – Schaumburg

Exploritorium – Skokie (Part of the Park District)

Go Bananas – Norridge

*Opening Soon: Funtopia – Glenview

In addition to the above mentioned locations, the park districts and libraries in the northern suburbs have plenty of fantastic resources for toddlers and their older siblings. With sunnier days on the horizon, most cities offer outdoor festivals, special events, and farmers markets, so be sure to check out what your town is offering. If you and your family have another favorite hot spot that you would love to share with others, please let us know about it in the comments below.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

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Sensory Activities for Summer

Sensory Play for Summer

Sensory play and multi-sensory approaches to learning have been incorporated throughout many learning opportunities to encourage versatile growth and development. Providing children with an opportunity to learn via tactile, auditory, visual, and even movement input has proven to show faster incorporation and carry-over of skills across environments. Sensory teaching techniques also stimulate learning by encouraging children to some or all of their senses to do the following:

  • Gather information about an assignment using both visual information and auditory informationSensory Activities for Summer
  • Synthesize and analyze material
  • Solve logic-based problems with multiple perspectives
  • Develop and utilize problem-solving skills
  • Use non-verbal reasoning skills
  • Understand and make connections between concepts
  • Store and recall information easily and efficiently

These skills can be cultivated during the summer months as well. The summer provides an array of its own sensory experiences that can be used to promote sensory learning while out of school. Here are some activities for the while family to encourage whole body learning and development.

 Sensory play activities for summer:

  1. Play a game of eye-spy outside! You can make it more of a challenge by using clues of size, shape, or clues of purpose.
  2. Play pictionary on the sidewalks with chalk, for a tactile and visual experience.
  3. Enjoy water play. Play a game of slip-and-slide while trying to retrieve an object on the way down; providing sensory play, motor planning and visual-motor integration skills.
  4. DIY play-doh is great for tactile play and executive functioning skills to follow a recipe.
  5. Make tactile balloons. Fill balloons with different textures (beans, beads, sand, rice, play-doh, coffee grinds, marbles, water, hairgel, corn starch and water mix) For more fun, place balloons in a tub if water, then guess and write what is inside each one!
  6. Have a Hippity Hop scavenger hunt.
  7. Play a game of edible shapes. Gather foods that have distinctive shapes (ex. cheese puff balls, gold fish, marshmallows, starburst, Hershey kisses, pretzel sticks tortilla chips). Blindfold the children playing and have them guess both the shape and the food!
  8. Create an obstacle course on a playground for motor planning, proprioceptive input and vestibular input. For added fun have your child draw out or write the steps of the course prior to completing it.
  9. Do Spice painting. Mix white glue with a bit of water to dilute it and add some spices (no hot spices). The activity will provide various aromas and will have different textures when dried.
  10. Visit the beach and play hangman, tic-tac-toe or write messages in the sand.


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NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Let’s Play! Board Games for Preschoolers

Just as children age and develop their speech and language skills, the board games they play will also continue to progress and increase in complexity. Board games that are appropriate for preschoolers therefore provide additional speech and language targets that were not available in early board games.

In early board games, the most common concepts that are emphasized are basic colors and numbers. However, in age-appropriate games for toddlers, main concepts will be more advanced – focusing on advanced colors, counting, shapes, and vocabulary. Likewise, game sequences will be more complex, requiring additional steps, and increased attention and frustration tolerance. For example, there may be a memory component within the game sequence or several options on which a player could act upon. Read on for my favorite board games for preschoolers and communication targets within each game.

Best board games for preschoolers and potential communication targets within each game:

  1.  Zingo – Zingo is one of the most popular games among my preschool and elementary clients. Zingo provides a multitude of opportunities to target a variety of speech and language skills. As zingowith any game, children can practice peer interactions – turn taking and asking questions (e.g., “Do you need a cat?”). Due to the variety of picture chips, children can work to increase their vocabulary and semantic networks, labeling pictures or answering WH- (what, where, when, who) questions regarding each picture (e.g., “What says woof?” or “Where do you live?”). Children can also work on following two step directions (e.g., “First put on the tree, then put on bird”)
  2.  Candy Land – Candy Land is a great next step when increasing the complexity of a game’s play sequence from early board games. Rather than just moving one space forward, a child has to findcandyland the next available corresponding color. The complexity increases if a child draws a double card or a specific land card. Candy Land also requires color identification skills, turn taking abilities and frustration tolerance as a player can move backwards and forwards.
  3. S’Match – S’Match offers a spin on your traditional memory game. A player spins the game board, identifying one of three categories: shape, number or color. The player then has to find 2 cards thatsmatch share the chosen characteristic. This game challenges a child’s ability to identify and distinguish between the three attributes (shape, number, color), finding cards that are the same or different. Players will exercise their memory skills as they try to find matches.
  4.  Sandwich Stacking Game – The Sandwich Stacking Game has the ability to be played in a variety of ways, allowing for flexibility in how it is used. Vocabulary can be targeted through board games for preschoolersidentifying the various food items or a child’s sequencing skills (i.e., having the child follow the picture card instructions to build a sandwich). This game is also perfect to target a child’s direction following game (e.g., “First get the piece of bread”, “Before you get the tomato, put on the lettuce). Providing directions verbally will also exercise a child’s auditory memory in a fun way.

NSPT offers speech and language services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

the development of play

From Stacking Blocks to Tea Parties: The Development of Play

At each stage of our lives we have certain responsibilities; as adults we work, as highschoolers we went to school, as kids we played. Playing is a fundamental skill for children, and often acts as an avenue for other skills to develop. While playing, kids explore the world; they learn how things work, they arethe development of play exposed to new vocabulary and they learn to interact with other kids.

Play mirrors language development. As a child ages, their language skills develop, progressing from one word utterances to 3 – 4 word phrases and ultimately reaching conversational level skills. Along with this improvement and development of language abilities, a child’s play skills will also progress through a developmental hierarchy. Therefore, just as there are developmental steps with language development, there are certain play milestones that a child will progress through.

Use the table below as a reference to determine appropriate play skills for your own child for his or her age.

The Development of Play:

Age Play Skills
0-6 Months – Demonstrates reaching and banging behaviors for toys- Starts to momentarily look at items and smile in a mirror

– Rattles and Tummy Time mats are very popular at this age

6-12 Months – Begins to participate in adult-led routine games(e.g., Peek-a-boo).

Functional play skills are emerging at this age (i.e., playing with a toy as it is meant to be used). Examples of functional play are pushing a car or stirring with a spoon.

– Demonstrates smiling and laughing during games

 

12-18 Months – Consistently demonstrates functional use of toys- Emerging symbolic play skills were be observed at this age (i.e., the use of an object to represent something else). For example, pretending a banana is a telephone or pretending to brush a doll’s hair with an imaginary brush

– A child will also ask for help from a caregiver or adult if his or her toy is not working

 

18-24 Months – Pretend/symbolic play will become more advanced with the use of multiple toys in one play situation (e.g., playing kitchen or house)- There is much more manipulation of toys at this age – grouping of like items and assembling a complex situation

– Children will also become more independent in putting toys away or repairing broken pieces

 

24-30 Months – At this age children will begin to demonstrate parallel play. In other words, children will engage in the same play activity with the absence of interacting with each other- Although at this age, children are not yet interacting together directly, they will begin to verbalize more around children as well as share toys with other peers

 

30-36 Months – Children at this age are becoming expert playmates – long play sequences will be carried out. Typically, children will begin by playing out familiar routines, such as a parent’s dinner routine. As children age, new endings to play sequences will emerge- Dolls or other play animals may become active participants in a play sequence.

 

Rossetti, L. (2006). The Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale. Linguisystems, Inc.

Encourage your child to explore and interact with new toys. Try sabotaging a play sequence (e.g., putting a block on your head rather than on the floor) to add extra fun or laughs to an afternoon. While playing with your child, also encourage and add language to the situation. You can do this by asking the child, “What should the horse do next?” or even just narrating what you are doing, e.g., “First I’m going to stir my pot, then…”.

Playing is meant to be fun and enjoyable for parents and their kids. Enjoy the warm weather, encourage language and play development and go outside to play!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!