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The Whole Spectrum of Social, Motor and Sensory Games- Excerpt

Using Every Child's Natural Love of Play to Enhance Key Skills and Promote Inclusion

PROGRESSIVE GAMES FOR AGES THREE TO SEVEN

Self Esteem Games

The progressive games for children ages three to seven in this section use one kind of material, such as plastic water bottles, a blanket, 2x4 boards, hula hoops or a ladder to provide a variety of games. Progressive games keep changing to challenge different skills. There are two goals for the children. One goal is to enhance one or more of the domains—social, sensory, cognitive, or communication. The other goal is larger: to create community. Having community, feeling a sense of belonging, being included just the way we are, is a strong need for all humans. Our survival brains are wired to crave connection.

Processing the world differently or having physical challenges or different mental capacities, however, can sometimes make it hard for everyone to fit in. Every game in this chapter encourages shared attention, in which everybody is paying attention to the same thing at the same time. The games give everyone the possibility of joining in and finding connection through play.

BLANKET GAMES

The simple material of a blanket—just a large piece of any strong material would do—evokes  fun and encourages the development of motor, social, and sensory skills. For example, wrap a blanket tightly around two people and ask them to jump together, and they work on balance, timing, and shared attention—and they definitely gain social awareness of the other person who is snuggled up next to them!

What Is Being Learned

Sensory Skills

Vestibular feedback: The activity challenges children’s ability to stay balanced and to pay attention to the information in their inner ear that helps them maintain an upright position.

Proprioceptive feedback: The snugness of the blanket wrapped around them makes them aware of their body, satisfies their need for being held, and helps them stay in the present moment. Moving forward while snug in a blanket or attached to a friend also requires motor planning and body awareness.

Motor Skills

Rhythm and timing: Children get an opportunity to be in sync with another person by matching their rhythm and timing. (These games will still work even if the children aren’t in rhythm, but with practice this can be easily and satisfyingly learned.) Being in sync with another person also enhances social skills.

Socials Skills

Awareness of others: Some of these games start off as individual activities and progress to having two or more children wrapped together. Children notice the difference and become very aware of their classmates and the social pleasure of connecting with another without language.

Taking turns: Waiting for one‘s turn and understanding that other people get a turn are important and needed concepts for children.

Setup for All the Blanket Games

Game 1: Sausage Walk

Directions

For the first round, wrap a child tightly in a blanket and ask him to walk from the Starting Spot to the Turning Spot ten (or more) feet away. When he reaches the Turning Spot, help him turn around and then have him jump back to the original spot. For the second round, wrap two children together and have them perform the same movements. They first walk to the designated spot and then turn around and jump together back to the original spot. Children can stand beside each other, or one child can stand behind the other.

See the video here

Game 2: Fat Sausage Walk

Directions

Choose two or more children to stand together in a line, with one person in front and the others behind. The decision about how many children stand together can depend on the coordination of the children involved or everyone’s ability to handle the consequences of all falling down. Children often think falling is the “funniest” part. Wrap the children together in the blanket. As in the previous game, children walk forward to the Turning Spot and then, with help, turn around and jump back.

See the video here

Game 3: Dragon

Directions

Choose four or more children to stand together in a line, with one person in front and the others behind that person. The children wrap their arms around the person in front of them. Lay the blanket over all the children except the child at the front of the line. Tell them that they are a dragon and only the head of the dragon can see where they are going. This person, the one who can see, then walks to a designated spot, and all the others, because they are all holding on to each other, walk with her.

Variation

Have the lead person walk wherever she wants around the room (or just in a designated area). You can stop the “dragon” at any point and ask the children who are under the blanket if they can guess where they are in the room. Near the door? Near the bookshelves? This aspect of the game challenges their internal sense of where they are in space.

See the video here

Game 4: Rock and Roll

Directions

Two adults are needed. The blanket is folded in half. Each adult holds one end of the blanket. The child lies down on the blanket as if it were a hammock. The adults pick up the blanket and rock her back and forth, chanting these words:

Rock and rock and rock and rock

Rock and rock and roll

At the end of the chant and on the word “roll,” the adults tilt the blanket close to the floor and let the child roll out. Be sure that you have a soft floor covering for this game and the next, such as carpeting or a mat.

See the video here

Game 5: Sushi or Burrito

Directions

Lay the blanket on the floor and have one child lie down so that his body is parallel to the bottom edge of the blanket. Then you, with the help of other children, roll the child up in the blanket as if rolling up a sushi or burrito. Once the child is rolled up, the other children pretend to eat the yummy treat.

Afterward, the edge of the blanket is lifted up, and the child is carefully or quickly unrolled depending on his sensibilities. Again, as in the previous game, you might want to have a soft floor covering, such as carpeting or a mat. If that’s not available, unroll slowly.

See the video here

Game 6: Trampoline

Directions

Lay the blanket out flat and have each child pick up an edge until everyone is standing around the blanket, holding it at waist level. Place a ball or stuffed toy or doll in the center of the blanket and help the children learn to bounce the object up and down by lifting and lowering the blanket. With practice, the children learn that if they all lift and lower at the same time—that is, work together—they can have more control over how long the object is bounced before it rolls off the blanket.

See the video here

Game 7: Dance Around

Directions

As in the previous game, this game starts with all the children holding on to the edge of the blanket. Put on any music and let the kids dance around in a circle. At the end of the song, they all lift the blanket and go underneath.

See the video here

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