Children with differing abilities are a crucial piece of the fabric of our world, community, and families around us. In celebration of Autism Awareness Month, we wanted to highlight some games and ideas, specifically emphasizing some skills children on the spectrum might be working on to foster interaction and growth. Legacy Toys strives to be a safe place for all children to explore and play.
From communication skills to relationship development, playing games with others works our brain "muscle" in so many ways. Board games can encourage healthy brain development in kids and teens and for older adults playing games improves attention and working memory. Whether we are one year old or ninety-nine, research, and studies show significant emotional and cognitive gains for children, maintaining sharpness and decreasing risk of Alzheimer's in adults and promoting healing and memory of aging adults.
Some of the simplest, fastest, and easy brain-boosting games are commonly referred to as Brainteasers. Brainteasers can be simple or very complicated, but often fun! Brainteasers strengthen critical thinking and problem-solving skills, build lateral thinking and new perspectives, improve cognitive skills like memory and processing speed, and trigger teamwork and communication.
One of the most requested items at Legacy Toys by kids and their caregivers is fidgets! What may have started as a fad a few years back has emerged as one of the most popular and requested items at Legacy Toys. Fidgets have evolved from the fidget spinner to very sophisticated, fun, and useful ways to both play and promote focus. Even more than a cognitive tool, the list of pros for fidgets is continually growing:
Supports calm and relaxation
Aides in physical therapy, wrist and finger strength
Hand strength and dexterity
Strengthens tactile and fine motor skills
Eases arthritic pain by increasing circulation and reducing stiffness
Solution for sensory seekers
A healthy way to use repetitive actions to calm overactive nervous systems
Everything is starting to come together. Your child is starting to connect the learning. The learning may be getting harder, but who says it can’t be fun? Have an international night. What part of the world are they studying in History or Geography. Explore what the culture is like there, do they dress differently, try learning some of that language and cook an international meal together. As our kids become more self-sufficient, and schedules can get busy, consider having a family game night each week to connect and have fun.
Do the phrases, “I can’t” or “boring” ring through the home of your 3rd or 4th grader? This age group is becoming self-aware, looking to please friends and others. This age group likes having some control. It may be time to offer more choices to allow them to feel more empowered. Is the shower the battle? The choice might be shower tonight or in the morning? Our children are showing us now how they learn best, are they hands on learners or do better over a book? Use their interests as a learning advantage.
Many 1st and 2nd graders are working on mastering their gross motor skills with increased coordination. They are able to reason a bit more effectively. This age group’s vocabulary is exploding and they can more easily use words to connect with people and build friendships. We can help our child by talking and learning about what friendships are, what it means to be a good friend and how a friend might act. Look at encouraging social interactions or (virtual) play-dates with peers that are within groups you may already be a part of such as, homeschool groups, before/after school daycare or programming, religious affiliations, summer camps, neighborhoods, nearby parks or sports teams.
Since every child learns and thinks differently and every home and family is unique; we’ve got a few tips for successful learning at home. Not all of these may work, or may even be doable, and that’s okay! It’s always great to have more tools in your toolbox than you may need, so you’ve always got a back up.
The Kindergarten age child can be full of boundless energy. They are running, jumping, skipping non-stop. Kindergarten age children are eager to please and might want to show off what they have made or see. Encourage your child to tell you more about their creation, ask open ended questions like, what is this (door) for, or why did you choose a certain color. Kindergarten age children might love telling jokes. Make it an evening practice to tell a joke of the day at breakfast or around the dinner table.
In the blink of an eye, our little toddler has grown into a 3-5 year old going on 13, they don’t call them a threenager for nothing. Copying adults, learning to problem solve and engage in pretend play. The Pre-K child is a sponge and ready to explore. At this age, children learn best when they are having fun. Everything might be a game, from cleaning up to finding what is solid and what is a liquid in the house. Learning through fun helps your Pre-K child start building learning concepts.