Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A few thoughts on the power of "play"

I recently presented at our annual birth to three in-service. I spent a lot of time researching effective play strategies for our kiddos. Play is the natural course of learning for children. For children with vision impairments, experience is the natural course of learning. How do we create meaningful play? 
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I want to share some of my presentation to help our teams and families create meaningful play time. Our kids need to play but it can be a challenge to have fun, effective play time. 

Here are some of my favorite tips and resources for getting
 playtime off the ground!
  • Allow time for pre-teaching. Our students should be allowed to come to group early and check out the centers/stations, toys, schedule, etc. to help them anticipate the activities
  • Incorporate familiar transitions for our students where possible. You may need to do this 1:1 for students in case there is a group. Make sure you make that transition connection for our kids so that they can anticipate.
  • Incorporate vision modifications to make activities more accessible. For example: contrast, preferential seating, placement of activities, clear pathways, peer buddy helper, etc.
  • Select activities or groups with predictable routines that are familiar. For example, using the clean up song to clean up or jingle bells for transitioning. 
  • Select sites that aren’t over stimulating. Look for visual and/or auditory clutter at stations, carpet and background
  • Encourage parents to get their child involved in lifelong sports:
    • Examples: Swimming, track and field, wrestling, martial arts, crew, skiing, yoga. Music and theater are great alternatives to sports.
  • Possible disadvantages of popular team sports:
    • Difficulty with keeping up visually
    • Social loss & Anxiety
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For those mommy & me groups or just for when the family is hittin' up a playdate at the park:
Moms, dads, caregivers, create a playdate go bag! A playdate go bag is a portable travel kit that has vision modifications that you can use in a pinch to help your little one out at play dates. I suggest you keep this in your trunk. I used to keep spare clothes, diapers and a blanket for my toddlers in case they needed a quick change due to a diaper explosion in my trunk. This is the same thought process. Sometimes you go to a playdate and it is totally not accessible for our kiddos. This can be a stressful and frustrating feeling. We can eliminate some of that if parents come prepared!
Use a small bag for your playdate go bag. Don't overwhelm yourself! You still need to bring diapers, wipes, toys, etc. so don't get in over your head. Pack items such as: 
-a big black blanket or heavy fabric. Black fabric will help by acting as a place your child can sit on and play. You can also use it to cover up items that may be visually over stimulating. 
-a finished box (or all done box). You know how I feel about finished boxes (they work--use them!!). Remember a 'finished box' doesn't have to be a box. It has to be a place that is meaningful and useful as finished. Can be bag or fold up box. 
-yellow or red painters tape. Sometimes you can use this to quickly highlight something and then remove it when you are done. 
-transition bells or a timer. Use something you can use to help with time management.
-Braille or LP book. Keep 1 or 2 books handy just in case all the kids are sitting down for stories. This way your little one can read too!
-Preferred toy(s). Keep some favorite type of toys handy. Preferably ones that promote turn taking or exchange so your little one can have some social interaction. 
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Resources that ROCK:

I hope this helps with creating more meaningful playtime for our birth to three population. Hopefully you can hear my full presentation and I can share more ideas on playtime!!

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