Play Promotes Learning
learning through play
Children can learn a variety of skills in a multitude of domains through play. Not only can children learn skills in a naturalistic environment but they are naturally reinforced as well. Every child has different needs which will determine the play environment that is best to promote learning and target areas where your child has deficits.
Increasing verbal behavior can be difficult, especially if your child is not particularly motivated to express themselves verbally. Using a cause and effect toy can be a great place to start to encourage your child to engage verbally. For example, have your child make vocalizations into a microphone. Receiving that immediate feedback of hearing their own voice echo can be exciting and reinforcing! Have your child imitate sounds into the microphone, initiating a social back and forth game out of it. Show and tell is another great way to encourage your child to share their interests by verbally describing one of their favorite toys. This is also a great way to get siblings involved and practice turn-taking and modeled play. Music can also be another powerful tool to get your child to engage verbally. Imitating sounds and words from their favorite song can be a fun way for your child to use their voice. Positive Psychology has a great article with a number of ways to encourage verbal behavior through play for any age!
Sensory play can be a great way for your child to learn, in particular fine and gross motor skills. Many children on the Autism spectrum enjoy engaging with toys that provide sensory input. This type of play can increase the chances of your child retaining these motor skills because they are needed to engage in some of their favorite activities! The possibilities are endless and promote creativity and adaptability. Try having your child use fine motor skills by squeezing a food coloring bottle over a bowl of water or use gross motor skills by stepping into bins with different sensory items in them (beans, water beads, sand, etc). When a child is having fun they often don’t realize that they are learning so much in the process! There are so many different skills your child can learn through sensory play, here are some fun ideas to expand learning opportunities for your child that are sure to be a hit!
Keeping our brains active is important to ensure we are continuing to learn new skills and maintain old ones. Letting our child problem-solve through play is a great way for them to build confidence in their own lives. Putting together a puzzle, building a lego set, and matching or creating a block design are all great ways to get your child to use their brainpower while having fun! Encourage your child to be creative and flexible. Be silly for example, by having your child draw a lizard body with a giraffe head! This is a fun way to laugh together while challenging them at the same time. SOAR targets a variety of cognitive skills with our clients through ABA, but often these skills are challenging and non-preferred unless there is a play aspect involved that includes interests unique to that child. Here is a site with a variety of brain teaser toys that are sure to get your child intrigued.
There are so many ways to build adaptive skills through play! It is a beautiful thing to see our children gain skills that promote independence in their lives. Invite your child to join you in the kitchen and follow a recipe, or encourage them to take care of a baby doll by dressing, changing, and feeding them. Imaginative play is a skill that doesn’t come easily to every child so be a model for your child! Imitation is another important skill that will promote learning a variety of adaptive skills. Watch how playing both in-home, and in ABA, can teach your child how to gain independence in their life.
SOAR Behavior Services is a huge proponent for teaching skills through play in which we have had great success. Click the link to read individual case studies about children that have acquired a variety of skills through play in ABA at SOAR!