Ideas for Interactive Play For Learning

Creating opportunities for interactions is key when working with any child, but it is especially important when working with children with autism. ABA often gets a bad rap for being staid or leaving a kid stuck at a table doing discrete trials for hours on end. In reality, it should be neither! While I do discrete trials in my practice, my biggest priority is always focused on increasing learning opportunities by taking advantage of the child’s natural motivations. This typically means leaving the table, so I alternate between discrete trials and lots of teaching through games and activities. Here are a few of my favorites:

Toss & Talk
For this activity, I usually use a large ball, a soft ring, or something else the child can toss. I name a category, and we take turns tossing the ball (or other item) and naming an item from that category. The game can be easily modified for whatever you’re working on: counting, skip counting, or even vocal imitation. I like the game because it’s simple, it provide a back-and-forth that is similar to a conversation, and it can easily be modified to include peers, siblings, or parents. This is particularly great if your learner likes throwing balls, but I’ve also modified it to push a train back and forth or take turns hopping towards one another.

Play Dough Snake
This game is one I saw a preschool teacher use years ago and have had great success with. In this game, I simply create a snake out of play dough. I make a large opening for the snake’s mouth, then roll up little balls of dough that will be “food.” I tell the child that we are going to pretend the play dough is food. I have a silly snake voice, and I tell the child “I’m so hungry. Do you have something I can eat?” The child picks up a piece of the rolled-up play dough, tells me what kind of food it is, and then feeds it to the snake. I pretend to love it, and the little ball of play dough becomes incorporated into the snake’s play dough body (which is great, because the more “food” the snake eats the bigger it gets.) I can expand the game to have the snake dislike certain foods or tell the child he is too full. On several occasions, the learner has asked if they can be the snake, which is fantastic! This is another great game for peer play, sibling play, and modeling.

Pete’s A Pizza/You’re A Pizza
One of my favorite books for young learners is Pete’s A Pizza by William Steig. In this book, it’s a rainy day and Pete’s parents entertain him by pretending they are making him into a pizza: they roll up the “dough,” toss him in the air, add toppings, etc.
This is another game I saw a preschool teacher using during play time, and one I’ve used with many, many students. Sometimes I read the book beforehand, but if my learner’s level of comprehension or attention span is not appropriate for the book, I can just introduce it as a standalone game. I say, “It’s time to make a pizza!” Then, we get into the fun part of rolling the learner around, tossing him on a couch or mat, etc. This can generate a lot of language, work on sequencing, and provide a lot of opportunity for requesting activities.

Anything with a Parachute
My parachute is one of my best purchases of all time. I use it often and it allows me to play a wide range of games. Besides just having the learner lay on the floor and have the parachute float down onto his/her body, it is a highly motivating toy for a range of activities. Many of my learners love just pulling that large item out of it’s small bag. I’ve already written about three games I frequently play with the parachute. You can see that here.


Songs

Repeating rhymes and songs with motions that your learner loves can provide anticipation of an activity that may increase eye contact and manding. One of my favorites is shown in a video here. While this video is shown with toddlers, I’ve used it with kids up to 6 or 7 years old. Similar activities might include Going on a Bear Hunt; Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes; and Animal Action.

It’s important to note that none of these activities is beloved by every learner I encounter. The idea is to have a range of possible activities to learn which ones are motivating to your learner, then use those to create opportunities for language and interaction.


WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, PhD, LBA, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-15 in NYC. Working in education for twelve years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam utilizes strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. She is also an assistant professor in the ABA program at The Sage Colleges.

Pick of the Week: Tiggly Shapes (with Free Shipping!)

We’re really excited to share Tiggly Shapes with you: the first interactive iPad toy designed for toddlers. You have to see it to believe how cool and versatile this new product is.

Tiggly Shapes combines the essential educational benefits of physical play with the learning potential and fun of the iPad. This simple set of four geometric shapes interacts with three free apps to create an ideal learning environment for children. Tiggly Shapes melds the best of what the digital world has to offer with the developmental importance of manipulative play in toddlers and preschoolers.

Our Board Certified Behavior Analyst Sam Blanco just put together a review for Tiggly and how she uses it with her students. Read it in full here.

This week only, we’re offering FREE DOMESTIC SHIPPING on Tiggly Shapes. Just enter the Promo Code TIGGLY at checkout and simply select FREE UPS or USPS Shipping. This makes a perfect holiday gift for the child in your life.

Seventy years of academic research has demonstrated that manipulating physical objects is essential to early childhood development. Tiggly enables parents to bring this critical component of early learning to the “digital sandbox” today’s kids inhabit. The product consists of a simple triangle, circle, square, and star that become interactive when used with the three Tiggly apps to create a robust learning experience.

Tiggly Shapes and apps are designed for children ages 18 months to 4 years old.

The Apps, available for free on iTunes, are:

Tiggly Safari
Use the shapes to construct friendly and adorable animals for the jungle, farm and sea.

Tiggly Safari Screenshot Learn basic shapes with Tiggly Safari!

 

 

 

 

 

Tiggly Stamp
This app has a great voice record and camera option that allows you to create an image, tell a story and record it. Use the shapes in this app to build seasonally-themed scenes using everything from jack-o’-lanterns to igloos.

Create animals, fruit, and other characters with Tiggly Shapes.Create a story with Tiggly Shapes and Stamps!

 

 

 

 

 

Tiggly Draw
Channel your inner artist and use the tablet as a blank canvas to create your masterpiece.

Tiggly Draw Screenshot

Exercise creativity by taking and saving photos!

 

 

 

 

 

Remember, this week only, get free domestic shipping on your order of Tiggly Shapes when you enter in the promo code TIGGLY at checkout!

**Offer expires 12/17/13 at 11:59pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces in the promo code at checkout!

Product Review: Tiggly Shapes

First, let me go ahead and admit that I’ve played with Tiggly Shapes even when none of my students were around. This simple set of four geometric shapes that interacts with three free apps is one of my favorite additions to play time.

So many of my students are highly motivated by iPads, but I find them hard to integrate into lessons because it’s easy for the learner to avoid social interaction while the iPad is out. Tiggly Shapes provides opportunities for interaction with both peers and adults because it adds a physical component to the activity.

I tried this app out with two learners with autism, one five-year-old boy and one nine-year-old boy. For the five-year-old, Tiggly Shapes was a useful tool for practicing shape recognition (one of his current IEP goals), then receiving unique and powerful reinforcement when he touched that shape to the screen. Though he doesn’t have strong fine motor skills, the shapes are designed in such a way that he was easily able to grasp them. He especially loved to see the animals appear in the Tiggly Safari app.

The nine-year-old loves to draw on paper and on the iPad, so Tiggly Draw was an automatic hit for him. The shapes allowed me to participate in the drawing with him in a different way that encouraged more social interaction while still being highly reinforcing for him.

Although the Tiggly Shapes were initially designed for toddlers and preschoolers, the Tiggly Draw app can definitely be used for a variety of learners of all ages (and also happens to be the app I was playing with on my own.) It is the only app for this product that is easy to modify to meet your learner’s specific needs.

If you’re a teacher working with young learners or a parent looking for unique and interactive ways to use the iPad, I wouldn’t hesitate to snap up Tiggly Shapes. And I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll see more apps to go along with this fantastic new product!