Playful with a Purpose

Photo courtesy of sixninepixels /

Photo courtesy of sixninepixels /

Whether your child is too fragile to work on these skills directly or you just need some new ideas for family fun, try these activities that have purpose in their play.

  1. Staring contest. If eye contact is a battle, try turning it into a game. Sometimes even the most reluctant kids can’t turn down a staring contest. Keep the focus on the fun and silly and less on the competition. It’s a great one because it can be “rigged” so the child has success and the whole family can get in on the fun.
  2. Telephone. This game is great for increasing communication and listening skills. It also requires physical proximity and learning how to regulate your volume. There’s low pressure because half the fun is messing it up.
  3. Water or Nerf gun fights. This is a great one for older kids. The key is to make clear rules that you may only shoot someone after asking their permission. This game helps everyone feel like they have a voice and gives practice using good communication in a fun atmosphere.
  4. Go Fish! This is another game that gives great practice in asking questions with respect. There are lot of variation that can make it a math reinforcement game as well such as making pairs that add to a particular number instead of making matches.
  5. The Mirror Game. In this game, two people stand facing each other. One person leads and the other person mirrors what the leader does. Take turns being leader. Being able to give a child control in an appropriate environment can help with control in other areas. This game gets bonus points because it often also fosters eye contact and attunement.  Don’t forget to work on facial expressions when you’re the leader to help boost that emotional quotient.
  6. Active Listening. One person draws a picture or builds something from a construction toy. Then he uses words to get another person to duplicate what he’s done. The second drawer or builder can ask as many clarifying questions as necessary to make sure he’s following the directions properly. Besides honing communication skills, this is also effective practice for kids who struggle with spacial intelligence.
  7. Mystery Drawing. Take turns drawing simple shapes, letters, or words on each others back and see if you can guess what is being drawn. This is a great game if your child normally is averse to touch.

What other ways have you found to build connection through play and games?


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