Evolution of Play


From Neurologist summary, based off parent responses:  

Roc has little interest in toys, and has no imaginative play.  Instead of driving cars and trucks around, he will flip them over and spin the wheels.  He is very interested in watching things fall, such as pouring water, sand, or dropping toys on the ground.  He will wiggle his fingers in front of a group of toys.   He likes things that spin.

The Roc has come a long way since that very first doctor appointment on the very last day of 2007.  I will always remember the sinking feeling I had when I read about the lack of play skills and realized that my son didn’t know how to play.

Didn’t know how to play.

What do I do?  How do I teach my son to play? 

We started with simple building blocks.  I literally taught him how to build with blocks and giant legos.  We worked on the simple puzzles with the little red tabs.  He screamed in frustration at his inability to control his fingers and the pieces.  I made animals out of play dough and had them walk across the table.  The Roc would grab them and smash them.  I drove the cars he lined up.  He screamed when I messed up his line.  I did it anyway.  I got in his space and didn’t let up.  At night I sometimes cried, feeling that this was bigger than me, that I would never be able to teach him.  That too much time was slipping by, that the “window” I read about was closing.

I got up and did it again the next day.

Then I modeled imaginative play.  I set up the train track in his bedroom and made the train go.  I encouraged him to copy.  I cheered when he did.  He resisted any kind of change.  If I tried to get him to lead and let my train follow his, he screamed bloody murder.  I kept trying.  I cheered when he let my train follow his.  I made the tracks go around the room.  The closet became a spooky cave, the bed was a mountain, the pillows were a volcano, the carpet under the windows was the beach, a blanket ruffled up became waves.  The trains went on an adventure to these different locations.  Always in the same order.  I expanded out onto the landing, which I called Arizona.  The Roc screamed and thrashed at the changes in our play routine.  I cheered him on when he eventually joined in.

Slowly, slowly the Roc expanded.  We had picnics with his stuffed animals.  We worked on playing with the little people farm and castle, then the little people would go on field trips (after my mom was out visiting in DE and she did this with him) and then the Roc started having parties for the little people.  Last spring, around the time we found out we would be moving to MN, the Roc started having concerts for his stuffed animals.  Something he would set up all on his own.

I cheered for every step of progress.  For each skill learned.

The Roc’s play has again evolved.  He still loves a good party, but this weekend he made up a Halloween carnival for his little people:

The moon bounce.

The “ghost coaster.”  A scary, Halloween themed roller coaster where imaginary monsters jumped out and scared the riders.

The “regular roller coaster.”  Lots of sound effects went along with this one.

The cotton candy machine.  Where the little people “smashed their faces in the cotton candy and then ate it.”

Bobbing for apples was next.

Then the ferries wheel.  Note that scale is not an issue at this carnival.

The lollipop stand.  Where the people each picked giant lollipops, but eventually ate them all.

The game room where there was “basketball toss, soccer kick, and football throw.”

Finally, all the people got multiple prizes.  Giant stuffed animal prizes, because what else do you get at a carnival?

He set it all up himself, and there is a fair amount of screaming when things don’t line up, or stay upright, or bend too far.  I tried not to help out during the construction, but let him work it out for himself (after I told him multiple times to stop the screaming.)

The next skill I would love to see develop is for him to play some of these things himself.  I still have to play with him, and it’s not easy to play all day when you are an adult.  He cooperated with me yesterday in allowing me to stop and photograph each area of the carnival.  He has tried to play a few of these party/carnival creations with other children, but the other kids his age are pretty far past playing with little people.

My time is now up as I am being called to the “Christmas Carnival.”

Enjoy the weekend!


8 thoughts on “Evolution of Play

  1. I love it. Our boys would be instant friends.
    And I get the need for independent play. Was just talking with my son’shome therapist about that. Now that the interactive pretend play is coming along, I need some independent pretend play so I can shower. 🙂 we’re working on an activity book of 4-5 things in the house that I know he can do by himself. Let’s see if he actually does… 🙂

  2. What fun and so neat to see the growth! My 6, 7 and 12yr olds still enjoy playing with little people and would think a carnival like this was a great idea. I especially love the moon bounce. 🙂

  3. I’ve been enjoying your blog and all that the Roc is accomplishing! When I first suspected my son has ASD, a psychologist told me that play can be taught. What you’ve done is an excellent example. Thanks for the inspiration and I look forward to reading more!

  4. I admire your willingness to “play” with your boy. You are an amazing mommy/teacher/therapist doing the job of ten people. I admire your dedication to The Roc, and I know he will go far with you in his corner.

    Wishing you many deep breaths, and hoping you are taking time to honor yourself for all you do.

  5. Pingback: Week 2 of 12 « The Roc Chronicles

  6. This is so creative and so encouraging! I understand your situation so well. My son is 4 and really struggles with play. If I’m his “play partner” he loves it and will do some pretend play but on his own it’s really, really hard. Lately I’ve been getting burned out on this whole thing, but your post encourages me to keep trying!

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