A Successful Play Date for A Child with Social Challenges

In our Lions group we have been teaching the kids how to engage in dramatic play (pretend play) related to meal planning.  We began our group using unstructured dramatic play themes and quickly realized that our clients needed more of a systematic frame work. We moved from unstructured dramatic play to a more structured dramatic play,  but the goals remained the same. With  structured dramatic play, children can be given specific guidance. This allows opportunity for them to fill in the missing steps in their play. Using the structured approach, we are able to create pre-determined scenarios and then the children are able to make choices and discover solutions. You can easily do this at home too.

First step, create visuals to front load your child on expectations and addressing conflicts. Front Loading is a strategy  that is commonly used to provide students predetermined guidance and reminders for applying necessary skills, strategies, and behaviors to be successful in the day’s learning.  Secondly, do not bring too many children into the scene, I suggest just 1-2 children (children that match your child’s personality or are patient). Different children will need different levels of facilitation during play dates.   Your child may need assistance with waiting his or her turn (i.e., recognize whose turn it is, verbalize when it is his turn, and notify his friend when it’s his or her turn), request items from a friend (i.e., ask for a card or a game piece that he needs), give his peers eye contact during play, increase pretend play, and increase sharing and showing toys to peers. Keep the play date loosely structured and be sure it is not longer than 60 minutes for the first 3 sessions. Build the play date around a theme, like making things together. Create a simple outline or objective that you are able to tract progress. See below some objectives.

  • My child will  use her/his phrases to give instructions to her/his partner or protest during the activities.
  • My child will send he/his partner to go and retrieve the needed items using the appropriate phrases, body language and proximity
  • My child and her/his friend will take turns making the sandwiches
  • My child will engage in pretend play while eating the sandwich, making comments to the animal and play partner.

Create Visual for Boundaries:

  • Set clear boundaries for all the kids.
  • Offer materials that are motivating all kids
  • Provide visual cues in the environment that support and
  • Have scripts that will help promote ways to address social conflict resolution.

Example: Make real sandwiches together and Invite Animals stuffed animals to join in the fun.

  1.  Making something together will hold both  of the children’s interest (play doh, sensory low key to regulate your child) 15 minutes (semi-structured) and use the play doh to bake or build things around a central theme.
  2.  A simple dramatic play can making sandwiches  (bring bears, dinosaurs, dolls to eat with you guys).



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