The majority of my caseloads have been boys, so I've had to adapt therapy materials to fit what they enjoy playing with, and whatever engages them the most.
Social skills development can be difficult to teach, and it makes it more challenging teaching young boys this skill when most therapy materials focus on girls.
What I have discovered is that no matter the gender of the child, one of those items that seems to be engaging and fun is cars.
The best thing about cars is that they are easy to find, cheap, and are seen all over the world. Teaching kids to play with toys and then making them generalize to real-time play with peers is always the goal in therapy.
Playing with Cars
The first thing when introducing any toy is that you need to teach associated vocabulary. When we think of cars, we typically think of certain words:
It’s important to teach these words, as well as more abstract words such as crash. You can always adapt and add more words as your child grows and learns.
This is a simple chart that you can use with your kids to expose them to any new vocabulary, or to make sure that they fully understand and can pronounce the words.
The little yellow lines can be used if you want to make the board a game, or you can just use it as a visual aid.
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An idea for an additional activity can be a car wash. I like this because along with teaching pragmatics, it is so important to teach play skills. A lot of my kids use 1-2 step play sequences and it’s important to expand that as you get so much more language with just one extra step of play. Plus, when children play more complicated games or as we begin to give them more complicated directions, they involve more than 1-2 steps, right?
With a car wash, you have a novel 3-step sequence. We just used two bins and a towel, but how cute would it be to make these with your kids?!?
When playing with the car wash, you can have your kids do the following steps:
- Grab the (color) car, put it by the start and push to the other side
- Grab two cars, put them next to each other and push the red car through
- After the blue car goes through the wash, take it to the drying station and dry it off
As you can see, there are many different options for the way you play with the car wash. In addition, you can make the directions as complex as you need to. It’s important to not overwhelm your child so if you see the directions are becoming too much, don’t be afraid to drop down to two steps!
This works well if you have a “tool box” around the house. You can hide the tools around your house and have your children find them to fix a broken car. They have to ask for help, which works on social language skills.
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