It can be hard to engage a child that has a hard time doing things together. Not along side, not watching, but together. One way we have found to help Ruby to play more with us instead of just around us is with social games.
Think about a child wanting to engage in what you are doing but they don’t know how. They need a concrete example. Here is why building social games come in. They are repetitive and predictable so the child knows what to expect and gains confidence to participate.
An easy place to start are with games that don’t require a lot of talking to play and have a lot of movement. Chase games are pretty easy to learn and are a lot of fun. But it is not enough to just chase around the house, that is one continuous action rather than a repetitive game and can get old pretty fast. There needs to be something fun, some suspense, and something that requires their participation for the game to continue.
Introducing basket monster. I was doing laundry one day and after I emptied the laundry basket I looked over at Ruby who was looking at some books by herself and an idea struck. I put the laundry basket on my head and shouted “basket monster!” and starting running towards her.
She got a twinkle in her eye and started running. Then after I tickled her a few times I stopped with the basket on my head and required Ruby to do something for the game to continue. (Here is where a second adult comes in handy to model what to do for the child). I had her come up and touch me to “wake me up” for the game to continue. We played this several times and she had a blast!
What are good about building these social games is that now Ruby new a game she really liked and could try to initiate it but handing me the laundry basket. She knew what to expect, knew how to keep the game going so she was actually playing with us, and knew that it would be fun.
Building a tool kit of social games is so important for kids who have a hard time engaging because they are the gateway into our social world. When they know what to do they are more confident in engaging, which leads to social learning, building friendships, problem solving and so much more.
Find what you child likes and make it into a predictable game and build from there. We want them to learn that engaging socially is fun and the reward is the social experience.