My Child Doesn't Play with Me: What Can I Do?
There may be times when you feel like you've done everything short of growing a 3-ring circus out of the top of your head in hopes of capturing your child's attention, even if just for a second. You've tried sharing toys, narrating, asking questions, and every sensory rich toy that comes to mind. Sometimes, you need to lose all the extra frills and keep it simple. Try these 4 easy strategies when you are feeling at a loss:
GIVE YOUR CHILD SPACE
A child can possibly feel some anxiety if someone is too close to them and their play space. This could be a result of experiencing others try to change how they play, moving their toys around or removing toys from their play space without the ability to successfully advocate for themselves yet. Showing interest from outside of an arm’s length with simple narration, adding sound effects to their play, and making positive comments can encourage a sense of safety.
COPY, COPY, COPY
As long as your child isn't participating in an activity that is breaking a house rule, causing property damage, or putting himself in danger; copy! The feeling of being imitated is a powerful one. That ol' saying, "Imitation is the best form of flattery" applies here. If your child is repeatedly dumping spoons out of a box and putting them back inside, grab a spoon and join in! Your interest in them can spark their interest in sharing play.
LOSE ALL THE WORDS
It may feel counterintuitive, but try interacting without words. For a child who hasn’t yet found the value in using words, it can often sound like unnecessary noise. Too many words can cause your child to become overwhelmed with that additional stimulatory input. By having your face at your child’s level and showing how interested you are in the activity, you can get their attention!
FUN SOUNDS AND EXPRESSIVE ACTIONS
Piggybacking on the idea of cutting out the words, add some sounds and exaggerated faces. For example: When a block tower crashes, grab your face, make your eyes really wide, and gasp loudly. Crashing sounds, funny sounds, silly faces, unexpected actions (like pretending to fall); all of these strategies can ignite enough interest in your child to look at your face and make that connection you’re looking for.
Do your best not to feel discouraged! It can be difficult not to take these experiences personally. Be patient and keep trying. Your child will begin to show interest in cooperative play although it may look differently from what you expect. Keep your eyes peeled and your heart open!
www.hanen.org It Takes Two To Talk
Nicole Corin, MS, CCC-SLP, CAS, CA-IP