5 Games to Play with your Child with Autism
“But I’m so bored!” We’ve all been there - while watching our siblings, babysitting for a neighbor, or taking care of our own kids. Sometimes, we just run out of ideas to keep children entertained. During our era of easily accessible television and video games, it is tempting just to put something on the TV, tablet, or iPad. But why not take a few minute to engage with young children and help develop their basic social and language skills? Here are some “old” or updated games that you can keep in your “tool belt” for those times when nothing else seems entertaining:
Find a…/I spy a….:“I spy with my little eye something…with wheels!” I spy/Find a is a game that can be played anywhere! Grocery shopping? Play the game! Driving around in the car? Play the game! Not only can you play this anywhere, but these types of games also help develop a child’s expressive and receptive language by identifying and labeling items in the environment based on a feature (e.g. color), their function, or classification. Another version of that you can play with kids of varying ages is Spot It!. This uses similar skills as I Spy a, and it works on recognizing similarities and differences between items.
I’m going on a picnic: Similar to the games where you locate items in the environment in alphabetical order, this games adds in some imaginary play. All you need is yourself and the phrase “I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring____.” It’s easy to play anywhere and allows your children to use their expressive and receptive language skills while working on identifying letter sounds.
Simple Line Games: All you need for these are a writing utensil and paper. Games like tic-tac-toe, connect the dots, and classic dots (the one when you each take a turn drawing one line to connect the dots and create squares) not only help children develop turn-taking skills, but it will also work on their visual spatial and fine motor skills. If your child gets tired of playing those games or has strong fine motor skills, you could also play the “Draw the Monster” game where you fold a paper into thirds and each person takes a turn drawing the head, body, or feet of the monster without seeing what the other draws. Not only will this work on fine motor and turn-taking but it also touches upon imagination and imaginary play.
Heads Up: This game is a great way to work on turn-taking, waiting, attending, reading skills, and language skills (listening to descriptions, working through categories and sorting correct and incorrect information, labeling items, etc.). Play this game with kids of all ages (you may need to help them if they are still learning to read) – it is also fun to play as a group. There are other similar apps that allow you to personalize “card decks” so you can cater to the age of the group you are playing with. If you don’t want to use an iPad/tablet, make your own version using index cards and a writing utensil.
Hot & Cold: Warm...warmer…HOT! This game will help children utilize and develop their attending skills, visual spatial skills, and listener (receptive) skills by listening to the other person and reacting as needed to their directions. Again, nothing is required for set-up other than a room with enough space to move around in and items you can use as the “hot item”.
Audrey Raboin, BCBA, is the Clinic Manager at ABACS.