Promoting Social Interactions through Sensorimotor Play
I work with a lot of young children and children on the autism spectrum. Often this means that cooperative play and typical social interactions are challenging. Activities where we need to play as a group or hold hands are difficult, but sensorimotor props make learning these play skills much easier!
In this post I will share a few ways I use the stretchy band and ribbons to accomplish this goal.
Using the Stretchy Band
lI have written several posts: A Stretchy Band for Every Skill and 5 Ways to Use the Stretchy Band about how I like to use the stretchy band, but one way it has been coming into my sessions recently is for classic childhood games! Something like Red Rover or Ring around the Rosie now becomes a piece of cake for children who struggle with spatial awareness or peer relations.
- Ring around the Rosie
- I assign each child to a color and sing the classic rhyme.
- When it comes to “we all fall down”, I have the children drop the stretchy band to the ground since it can be difficult to get some of my kiddos back to standing.
- I sing the song several times and always change the ending so instead of “we all fall down” it becomes “we all jump up” or “we all stomp”.
- Red Rover
- I start with 1 child holding the stretchy band on each end, keeping it taught.
- We chant the Red Rover song and call one child’s name to run over into the stretchy band.
- They run as fast they can into the band and get flung backwards by the pressure.
- That child then helps hold the band and we call another friend over.
- We repeat this until everyone has had a turn running into the band.
- For fall, I particularly like “Way Up High in the Apple Tree”. I do the story chant-style, but the Learning Station also has a version for those who are unfamiliar with the song.
- I chant the song while we are all holding the stretchy band in a circle. The kids have to follow my movements with the stretchy band throughout the whole story.
- There is fun shaking, stretching, climbing in the story so you can get creative with how you all move the band together.
- Once the children know the chant well, I assign different leaders to chant the song and create their own versions of the movements that we all have to follow.
Ribbons are so versatile, and Janet makes many versions perfect for children of all ages and abilities. The thing I like most about ribbons is that they are visually engaging and give an easy way to track another peer’s movements so you can have extended interactions without many distractions.
- Shake Your Ribbons
- This is one of my original songs that I use often in my early childhood sessions. The song instructs children to move their ribbons in different ways.
- In the song, the children go “fishing” with their ribbons and have to share what they caught with the group.
- You can use the same chords of the song and ask different children to choose a movement, and all the other children have to follow and copy that movement for the duration of a verse.
- Ribbon Walk
- Some of my children really struggle with staying in a line or keeping appropriate personal space. I like to use a Ribbon Walk to work on this skill.
- The children stand in a line and are each given a ribbon. The person 2nd in line has to hold the end of person number 1’s ribbon and keep it straight and tight the whole time they are walking. They have to stand a “ribbons-length” away from their friend in front of them.
- I put on, or play, one of the group’s favorite songs and they have to follow-the-leader and walk around the room, keeping a ribbons-length of space between them and each friend.
- Mirror my Ribbon
- For children who are working on engaging in prolonged social interactions, this is one of my favorites!
- I pair 2 children up and the goal is for them to be perfect mirror images of each other, copying each other’s movements. Often this is done with the children touching hands, but that can be difficult for my little ones.
- The children instead have to hold each end of a ribbon and use that as a guide to complete the movement of the leader.
- The leader switches about every minute, so they always have to be ready to lead and follow!
- I play slow, simple music patterns in the background to guide slow, clear movements.
I hope you can use some of these ideas in your next class or session! I find that sensorimotor props are the most effective way to engage an entire group and get them working on social skills that are usually very challenging. For more songs to use in session, you can check out my latest CD, Mini Musical Minds. I also have an entire curriculum dedicated to social and emotional developmental for children of all ages and abilities!