My child doesn’t play. Or talk. Effective Play Ideas – Solution #3: What you already DO every day.

Your child doesn’t play with you. He doesn’t talk and is difficult to engage. Engaging him in 1-1 social interaction games, as I described in my earlier post YOU ARE THE BEST TOY, does work. But you can’t do that all day and need something else to engage your child. You have tried out some of the activities listed in my post WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE AT HOME. In this post, we will explore how you can expand this by including WHAT YOU ALREADY DO in order to interact with you child and to encourage his interest and motivation for joining in.

The Mind Building Nature of Daily Routines

Routines and daily rhythms help a child to make sense of their world and to build their mind ready for talking and all other learning. Routines and most games are activities that happen regularly and have a clear predictable structure, which makes them ideal for encouraging turn-taking and interaction, e.g. mealtime and bedtime routines, the ‘going out into the garden routine’ (socks, shoes, coat, open the door, remember to take bag and keys, …), the ‘wind the bobbin up’ routine, the ‘going in the car with mummy’ vs. ‘going in the car with daddy’ routines …

A Routine has

  1. a clear BEGINNING – MIDDLE – END, i.e. specific steps that
  2. always happen in the same order, so you can look forward to the next bit, and
  3. repeated regularly and many times, so you remember what’s coming
  4. with clear roles for each person, ideal to encourage turn-taking.

Children need Things to play with and Something to do

When there’s nothing to do and nothing to play with, children may get bored, noisy, boisterous or unhappy. Then things may go ‘wrong’ and children may get told off for apparently being ‘naughty’, when in fact they were only trying to create a game out of nothing or improve a boring situation. It is not possible to bring up a child in an impeccably clean and tidy flat without creating developmental and behavioural problems. Children who are expected to sit quietly and not make a mess, cannot develop their body and brain.

Children need purposeful activities to do and things to explore and play with. The most valuable play materials are NOT expensive man-made toys but everyday objects that often have no specific purpose or function, which means they can be used in many different ways.

Helping with everyday tasks

When used as opportunities for playful interaction with adults, then all young children love to help in the house, where they can learn so many important things, including sequencing, finishing a task, as well as self-help skills:

  • Cooking and helping with food preparation in the kitchen: washing lentils, peeling cucumbers/potatoes, grating carrots/ cheese, shelling fresh peas or beans …
  • Washing up, drying up, putting away clean cutlery and dishes, – helps also with sorting and categorising
  • Sweeping and mopping the floor is also great physical exercise and a satisfying task to see dirt disappear and making the floor wet first, and then nice and shiny
  • Hoovering, – most children love using the big hoover and making dirt disappear
  • Washing machine: putting in dirty washing, separating light from dark colours, emptying washing machine, hanging up washing, using the dryer, folding clean washing, matching socks, sorting each family member’s clean folded clothes
  • Cleaning the bath, sink, other surfaces …

If your child doesn’t play or talk, if he shows autistic-like behaviours or has an autism diagnosis, then there is almost nothing more important than involving him actively in clear and predictable daily routines. This is the soil for his language to grow. It will help him to figure out and understand, how the world works, what comes before and after, who does what, where and when. In this way he will learn about time and space, sequences and roles, rules and consequences.

Please let me know, what you find, when you try it out. I would love to hear about your experiences and any new ideas that you have about materials and what to do with them. You can use the form on the right of this page.

A warm welcome from Sibylle Janert.

I look forward to discussing your concerns.

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