All children learn through play because the bulk of their brain’s development occurs before they turn five years old. For children with autism, play is a powerful way to build skills and encourage growth. If you’re looking for creative ideas for play-based learning for your child with autism, you’ve come to the right place.
The following are six ways your child with autism can learn through play. These fun educational activities for kids will both entertain and enrich your child’s life.
1. Creative play can help them learn flexibility.
Many children with autism struggle with flexibility. Creative play is a great opportunity to encourage your child to be flexible. For example, you might give them two options while playing. When they choose one option, praise them for making a good choice. When the opportunity comes up again, say something along the lines of “We’re going to try the other way now!”
For example, you could have your child use their blocks to create a different formation. You could also encourage flexibility by having your child select a different toy for creative play. Creative play is a low-risk time to introduce flexibility into your child’s routine. It builds the foundation for future flexibility when disruptions prevent your child from doing something his or her preferred way.
2. Imaginative play (such as role playing) can help them learn empathy.
Imaginative play like role playing is a great way to help your child develop perspective skills. Perspective skills are considered a key component for developing empathy, an essential life skill. They learn how to put themselves in another person’s shoes, something that many children with autism struggle with throughout their lives.
You don’t have to play dress up with your child to engage in imaginative play. In fact, many children with autism dislike playing dress up. You can use dolls, stuffed animals, or other toys to make up stories and role play with your child. By playing different roles in your imaginative play, your child can practice reading social cues. Talk through the meanings behind each character’s actions to help your child further develop perspective skills.
3.Exploratory play can help them learn about the world.
Most children play with their toys, but children with autism often explore their toys in a multisensory way. For example, your child might run their hands along an object to feel its shape and texture. He or she might also use their mouth to get a better sense of the object.
Because of this, it’s good to have toys that have plenty of different shapes, colors, textures, and sizes. Your child will explore the world with all their senses, so it’s good to have interesting toys for your child to explore. Although wooden puzzles are a good activity for your child to enjoy piecing together, your child with autism may benefit from the thicker, textured pieces. Instead of just seeing the pieces and how they fit together, your child can feel their shapes.
4.Puzzles and other toys can help them develop fine motor skills.
Fine motor skills are important, especially if your child is entering elementary school. Many children with autism are soothed by repetitive activities, so toys that encourage repetitive action (while reinforcing fine motor skills) will benefit your child’s development.
Your child needs fine motor skills to eat, dress themselves, tend to personal hygiene, and complete assignments in school. Puzzles push your child to develop fine motor skills. Whether your child is enjoying a simple chunky puzzle or a more advanced jigsaw puzzle, age-appropriate puzzles can help your child’s development.
Our Wooden Knob Puzzles with Numbers, Letters, and Shapes can help your child learn fine motor skills while learning basic concepts they’ll need for early elementary school.
5.Child-led play can help with speech and language skills.
Some children with autism struggle to learn speech and language skills, which are vital to their future success. Child-led creative play can help your child develop their speech skills. For example, you might ask your child what they want to play with and have them talk through their play.
If you’re playing with something colorful (such as blocks, puzzles, or pretend foods), ask your child to name the color of each item as they hand it to you. You can also ask them to describe the shapes or textures of items. Engaging in consistent conversation during play can help your child build essential language skills.
6.Constructive play can help your child develop problem-solving skills.
Constructive play is play centered on building things. While it certainly applies to building things with blocks or other play things, it can also apply to putting together a jigsaw puzzle or coloring a picture. These activities can help your child develop problem-solving skills.
You can give your child as little or as much instruction as their experience level requires. If your child is completing a puzzle for kids, you might offer encouragement or hints to help them complete the task. More experienced puzzlers may be able to put their puzzles together unaided.
As adults, we often forget how to play or how to make play more structured and engaging for children with autism. Exploratoy offers a lot of toys that are fun and helpful, visit here to explore a toy for your child! Remember, increasing your interaction with your child with simple toys is more rewarding for both of you!