At first glance, simple toys may seem less “exciting” than the complex, high-tech toys children often find fascinating. All there is to do with wooden blocks is stack them, right? Wrong! Simple toys overflow with educational potential and have such an important role in development.
From addressing fine motor skills to fostering imaginative play to developing visual spatial skills, toys like blocks, cups, and snap-lock beads provide children endless opportunities to learn valuable concepts.
By employing a little creativity during play time, parents can help their children enjoy simple toys in new and exciting ways.
Children benefit from interactive play on the floor with their caregivers. However, children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can have a difficult time engaging this way.
Catching your children’s attention by incorporating their sensory interests is a gateway to expanding the ways they play. Below is a list of ideas on how to play with simple toys in order to facilitate your child’s continued development and expand his/her play repertoire. These ideas can be made easier or more complex, depending on your child’s level of development.
- Pretend you made a boat and move through the water
- Connect the beads and pretend your chain is a snake, slithering through the grass
- Place a bead on your head and build anticipation as you let it roll off and onto the floor
- Hide the beads in sensory bins such as dry beans or dry rice, and find them in order to connect them
- Connect the beads to make necklaces for each other
- Roll and spin your beads on the ground
- Pretend the beads are cars in a race, and make them zoom to the finish line
- Connect the beads to make hats and imagine you are various community helpers (fire fighters, police officers, train conductors, etc.)
- Sort the beads by color and count them
- Make patterns when connecting the beads
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- Stack the cups and knock down the tower
- Pretend to cook and mix pretend batter in the cups
- Fill the cups with sand, dump it out, or pack the sand to make sandcastles
- Pretend you are having a picnic with imaginary food in the cups
- Sort the cups by color, and find other toys that are the same color to put in them
- Figure out how to put all the cups inside the biggest cup
- Make pretend castles out of your cups by stacking them in various ways
- Pretend your cup is a drum
- Play with your cups in water to learn about volume
- Roll your cups to see how far they can go
- Stack the blocks and pretend they are a rocket ship ready for takeoff, with “blast off” initiating flying through the air.
- Make a bridge out of the blocks that toy cars can go under
- Take turns imitating different block designs the other person builds
- Make a giant wall out of blocks
- Build pretend block houses
- Build the tallest block tower you can and knock it down
- Write letters on the blocks and spell out different words both horizontally and vertically
- Find a toy in the room that starts with the letter on the wooden block
- Make a train by lining up three blocks with a “smokestack” on the top, and move along a pretend train track
- Make complex block structures and balance other toys on top of them
The possibilities are endless! Try expanding the ways you play with your child with ASD using simple toys in your home. You’d be surprised how far you can take it with a little imagination.
This article was featured in Issue 102 – Supporting ASD Needs Everyday