Thursday, March 20, 2008

Talk Time Routines

It is hard to compete with some toys. The toy itself is too interesting and your child can't shift attention away from the toy long enough to even hear you talking, let alone respond. For these toys, I create Talk Time Routines where the child learns exactly when to shift attention to the play partner and when to shift attention back to the toy. The routine itself becomes engaging. Most routines, once established, can then be used with other toys and expanded in various ways.

Below you will see a toy that spins balls (Way too interesting!) We organized a routine, though, that allowed this child to shift attention between communicating and playing with the toy. The first step was choosing two balls. We named all these Fisher Price balls based upon what was inside each one with names like duck ball, bell ball, ribbon ball. The second step was pounding on the box lid together and then getting out the balls chosen. Then the child shifted attention to playing with the toy, spinning the balls on the Fisher Price Jungle Toy (I don't know the exact name). Finally, after the spin, the child put the two balls in a box and then shifted back to her play partner to start the routine all over.

At the beginning, we needed to take the balls away quickly and put them in the Finished Box. But soon, the routine was established and she did it herself. We just modeled it and never told her she had to give up the balls. If she was too fast for us and managed to get the balls spinning again, we just waited.

The clip below was taken shortly after we introduced the game but as time went on, we talked more about the balls, took turns choosing, discovered that favorite balls were missing and went out searching for them in a different room, and so on. In other words we built upon this basic framework by expanding it, changing materials, changing play partners. We hope to be able to shift roles in this game and have the child hold the box and the play partner put the balls on the spinner. If we had two children playing together, establishing each role as desirable would be important so that trading roles would not be too difficult. We might say that one person got to be the Ball Manager and the other the Ball Spinner.

I should also admit that at the beginning, we struggled briefly over who got to control the box with all the balls in it. We overcame that difficulty by establishing the pounding on the box lid each time before we opened it each time. The routine was established at that point without much struggle for control of the materials. The game would never have worked at all if the adult were not in control of the materials at the beginning and we have not tried shifting roles yet because we are not certain that the child would be happy giving up the spinning role. The pounding together became better as time went on. We pounded fast and slowly, hard and softly, with all our fingers and with just two fingers and so on. We ended up making the pounding part of the routine more interesting each session.

As you expand these routines, look for ways to expand each part of the routine so that it will remain interesting, so that your child will learn flexibility, and so that the game works to teach new skills.

Basic Routine:

Two players: Ball Manager and Ball Spinner
  1. Look together in the clear box and pick two balls via discussion
  2. Pound on the box lid together and then open and select chosen balls
  3. Put the balls on the spinner and turn it on
  4. Take the balls off and place in the Finished Box

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