Play like a pro!
Create the optimal play environment. Putting together a room in your house that is low on distraction, free of electronic devices or battery operated toys and nothing that you need to say “no” to. A bedroom sized room is generally ideal. You want to be able to go in shut the door and leave your phone outside! Having a few shelves to keep toys and distracting clutter up and out of the way. Doing this will make it easier for your child to focus on interacting with YOU!
Be the best toy in the room! Once you have created a low distraction environment it’s time to standout within it. Brightening your affect, playing with energy will help your child attend to what you’re doing and offering. Think about how much your child is drawn to cartoon characters, the Wiggles, Disney movies etc. Imagine being a social magnet that draws and attracts your child to the interaction.
Drop your agenda. Using a play therapy approach is different from traditional therapies in that you must prioritize having fun and let go of a teaching agenda. Let go of asking questions or placing demands on your child while playing. Get out of the frame of mind that thinks “what can I get my child to do?” and switch it to “How can I be the most fun for my child?”. This can be difficult for many parents and professionals. That nagging feeling of “I need to teach them something….NOW!” is hard to let go of. The problem is, your child will sniff out your intention and if your primary objective is to get them to do something than you’ll turn them off from the interaction. It can feel counter intuitive and requires a BIG let go for many of us, but the dividends are worth it! ( Related link: Motivate and Wait)
Make your main goal: Shared Enjoyment. The reason play therapy is effective for teaching social communication is because it creates and presents people as fun, user friendly and accepting. When you create fun interactions, you build a fire in your child’s belly to seek out interaction with other people instead of exclusively objects. When your child enjoys something they figure out how to make it happen, when your child shares enjoyment with another person they will figure out how to make it happen.