Most neuro-typical children love to be “helpers,” and they make very good teachers to their peers. As a parent, the more exposure your child has to other kids his own age, and the more age-appropriate interactions that take place between them, the better. I once read an article which suggested that play dates for developmentally delayed children should happen at least four times a week. That can be difficult to arrange. However, if your developmentally delayed child has siblings, cousins, neighborhood playmates, or other children who are willing to regularly “play” with him, you’ll be doing him a great service to encourage and even schedule those encounters as often as possible.
“Teach me how to play.”
Although typical children like helping each other, they may need some instruction in what they are supposed to do. Play is something they have always done without much thought; it just comes naturally. So how do they teach a peer to play? Take some time to explain to the child/ren how to do this. There are five basic skills they need to know.
- Get your friend’s attention.
- Share a toy.
- Show your friend how to play with the toy.
- Take turns playing with it.
- Talk to your friend with kind, simple words.
What you can do, as a parent, to facilitate a good peer-play experience:
- Prepare a fun activity, like playdough and cookie cutters, or paper boats in a shallow container of water.
- Explain to the peer/s what skill you’d like to teach your child (shaping the dough into a ball, folding the boats and making water waves, etc.).
- Demonstrate the skill to the peer.
- Allow the peer to practice the skill.
- Bring your child to participate, allowing the peer to teach the skill. Watch from a distance, giving infrequent gentle guidance or suggestions.
- Encourage turn taking.
- Give a special reward and praise to the peer for being an excellent teacher.
Kristyn Crow is the author of this blog. Visit her website by clicking here. Some links on this blog may have been generated by outside sources are not necessarily endorsed by Kristyn Crow.