By: Roe Bonomo BCBA Sidekicks
At some point many of us fear that our children are becoming coach potatoes or they perhaps are not engaged in a meaningful way. Well, have no fear; there are strategies to help you assist your child. Just as your child thrives best in a structured program at school, our goal is to provide that same premise of scheduled activities at home or in a community setting.
To begin, make a list of the activities that your child most enjoys. Make a special note of those he or she can do with little guidance from you. Examples are puzzles, Lego sets with step by step instructions, sticker books, Klutz books, tangram puzzles, crossword books, word finds, and “I Spy” picture books. The list is endless, however, the key is to isolate those activities that your child enjoys and can complete with minimal assistance. After all the idea is for your child to engage in a fun, constructive way during his or her down time!
For an earlier learner, begin with very simple inset puzzles or design activities that can be placed in zip lock bags. For example, if your child enjoys matching shapes, letters, or numbers then look for free printable worksheets online. To use them multiple times, you can laminate them and use dry erase markers. With a little ingenuity, activities can be designed for all ages and disabilities.
Now that you have selected some fun, independent activities, the next step is to put them together in a book for your child to follow. This is called an activity schedule. Its purpose is to provide a visual means for teaching independence during your child’s down times. For steps in creating an activity schedule, check out the link: https://www.iidc.indiana.edu/?pageId=394 . The easiest way is to take pictures of the activities you have selected and place them in a photo album. It is best to begin with three to five activities.
After your photo album is made, next set up an area where your child can readily retrieve these activities, such as a bookshelf. Clear the area of clutter which has a tendency to take over! Bins are the perfect choice for staying organized. Each activity can be placed in a separate bin. For young learners or newcomers to the activity schedule band wagon, place a picture of the activity on the outside of the bin.
To begin the path to independence, show your child that each picture corresponds to a matching bin on the shelf. Next, as you point to the picture, have your child retrieve the activity, complete it, and return the bin back to the shelf. He or she would next turn to the next page on the album and repeat the same sequence. Once your child gets the hang of it, you can saunter over to a room nearby and enjoy your leisure time!
You will find that activity schedules are a wonderful thing! In addition to fun stuff, you can also embed homework and exercise tasks into your child’s activity schedule. For example, your child can begin with a puzzle, do a math worksheet, walk on the treadmill for ten minutes, and end with another enjoyable activity such as an “I Spy” book. Even chores can be slipped into an activity schedule. There are a multitude of possibilities! Enjoy your child’s new found independence!