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I recently read the book Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Playdates with my girls, and it has greatly helped all of us find ways to include children with differing preferences during group play. My children are aware that we are all unique individuals with a specific set of needs. They have experienced playing with children that are at different levels of development whether it be behavioral, language, social, emotional, or other cognitive or physical differences. While the Stewie BOOM! book we read focused specifically on a child who has autism, I have found that the lessons taught in this book can be used across the board regardless of the specific type of need. Along with the ideas presented in this book, we have been trying out a few other techniques that we have found to be effective. Here are some Tips to Include Children With Special Needs During Group Play.
- Have an awareness of each child’s sensory needs and aversions. Try to come up with activities that can fulfill the children’s sensory needs. We have tried a few of these fun Sensory Activities that have been a huge hit for group play with children with a wide variety of preferences.
- As mentioned in Stewie BOOM!, it is a good practice to encourage children to be flexible during playtime. If one of their playmates is bothered by the current activity, you may need to try something else. Work with kids to embrace last minute changes during group play.
- Get input from all children involved on what activity they would like to do. Help them to agree on one idea, and if necessary break them into smaller groups to accommodate specific requests.
- Another technique we learned from Stewie BOOM!, is to practice playing with quiet voices. Not all children can handle the noisy activities.
- Get parents involved in playtime too! Since we are talking about being inclusive, the grownups can play an activity with the children as well. Some children feel more comfortable when there is an adult actively involved in the group play. Besides, it really feels great to unleash that inner child every once in a while. 🙂
I am certainly no expert on this subject, but I have learned quite a bit from experience. With the help of resources like Stewie BOOM! books, I have been able to find really great ways for us to be inclusive during group play. Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, Snowflakes and Playdates actually has a great list of tips located at the back of the book, as well as a “Friendship Goals” checklist and award for you to use at home. You definitely should check it out!
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