“Play is a method by which a child communicates, and processes information
from the outside world”. Functional and social play skills are an essential
part of their overall development.
Typically, children prefer the company of other children rather than being
alone. However, for children with special needs, playing becomes a
difficult task. They are unable to use toys in an appropriate manner; they
also face difficulty in initiating or engaging themselves in play
activities. Hence, it is important to increase the “motivation to play” in
them and teach various skills which are required to engage in appropriate
play. Find the best
special ed school in Mumbai.
It is important to remember that the idea of ‘toys’ and ‘play’ should be
fun and a source of enjoyment for the child. It should not evoke any
stress, fear or anxiety in them. Play skills help to develop concepts like
colors, shapes, body parts, alphabets, numbers, imitation, sequencing etc.
Parents, caregivers and teachers should include variety of activities for
different types of play such as:
Gross- motor play:
Playing with large blocks
Playing on the trampoline
Climbing play on ladder
Balloon and bubble play
Throwing and catching a ball
Fine - motor play:
Play-dough and putty
Painting (finger painting, using brushes, markers and crayon)
Legos, Lincoln logs
Pattern making activities
Role play with dolls and stuffed animals
Using props and costumes in play (hats, doctor’s coat, stethoscope,
chef’s hat etc.)
Pretend play like creating a grocery store, restaurant, hospital at
There are few things that we need to keep in mind while teaching play
skills to a child.
Play skills should be taught by breaking down each skill into small
sequential steps using a method called ‘chaining’. Changing the rules or
order in which a game needs to be played can make a huge difference in the
child’s motivation level. Following a structure (set pattern) could help
children in learning each skill faster. Another consideration is to
designate a specific place at home for the purpose of play, areas that are
not too large and have some definable boundaries helps in teaching a child
what can or cannot be done.
Strategies for teaching a child how to play
Sit in front of the child so that s/he can look at you, and observe
what you’re doing
Provide choice of two or three toys while initiating play, this
helps in reducing stress as we are providing an opportunity to
Follow the children's lead during play. This is helpful as they
learn most when they are interested. Child – led plays start with
observing what the child is interested in and then going along with
it. This is known as ‘Natural environment teaching’.
Reward your child for successful play behavior. Even if s/he has
attempted to play, immediately provide a reward (praise, tangibles,
or any other preferred object of his/her choice).
Show the child what s/he is supposed to do. e.g., in order to teach
them how to build a tower, show them how to do it, we can also use
pictures and videos to help them learn.
In order to teach pretend play, use some everyday pretend actions
as a model to your child such as driving a car, riding a horse or
banging a drum.
Let the child play in different environments. For e.g. if s/he
wants to play with soft toys at home, encourage the child to play
at a friend’s house.
Use play to teach life skills. For e.g. dressing up a doll can help
children in learning to dress themselves.
Consider a child's strengths while teaching. For e.g. if your child
is a visual learner, you can utilize this strength by using
pictures of the different steps in a game or activity.
What is a therapeutic intervention? What are the therapies included for
children with learning disabilities? Find a school for learning
disabilities in Mumbai.
How Implementing different types of play helps children with special needs:
Manipulative play activities can be used to show children how to
interact with objects and the environment around them. For e.g.
putting together puzzles or stacking blocks could teach them
perception and problem solving skills.
Matching and sequencing games helps children to develop motor
skills, language, concentration and memory.
Role-play and social play can help children learn how to socially
interact with other people. An example of role-play is to sit down
with the child and teach them how to greet when someone says “Hi”/
or when there are guests at home.
Toys that focus on co-operative play can be an effective way to
promote development of social skills like sharing, turn taking,
communication and imitation.
Sensory issues are common among children with special needs and
playing can be used as an opportunity to address their needs and
provide different kinds of sensory input. For example, musical toys
provide visual stimulation with lights. Sing along videos are great
for auditory stimulation and also helps in developing verbal
Trampoline, bicycles, jump ropes, etc. can be used to enhance
muscle coordination, balance, and movement. Children with increased
hyperactivity could benefit from physical play activities as it
helps them to channelize their energy in an appropriate manner.
How do inclusive schools benefit a special child? Find the best special
ed school in Mumbai.
Children not only need appropriate materials and activities to play with,
but also need to be taught ‘how to play’. Play can be taught using a
technique called ‘Floortime’. As its name suggests, it encourages
parents/caregivers and teachers to engage with children at their level by
getting down on the floor. It is a relationship- based therapy for children
with special needs. It is also used in combination with ABA therapy
techniques. Overall, Floortime aims to help children reach the
developmental milestones crucial for emotional and intellectual growth.
Depending on the child’s needs, a certified play therapist, ABA therapist
or a child psychologist can implement these techniques and even teach these
techniques to parents and caregivers. This can have a significant positive
impact on a child’s behavior.
Author: Ridhima Sharma
Behaviour Therapist, The Aditya Birla Integrated School
Looking for a special ed school or school for learning disabilities or adhd
schools in Mumbai, check out
The Aditya Birla Integrated School
, an inclusive school with an aim to create happy, confident, balanced and
Famous personalities with learning disabilities
If you think, your child needs special education, please
Please contact TABIS for more information on special
learning curriculum and
The Aditya Birla Integrated School,
162-164, D.N. Road, Opposite CST Station.
Fort. Mumbai – 400 001.
Contact No.: +91 8828860611
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