Aim of the game:
Help your child to learn to follow instructions with this simple, fun, find and seek game. Understanding words, sentences and instructions is key to talking and learning and being able to follow instructions is particularly important for when children start school. This simple game can give you information about your child’s level of understanding and can help them to develop their skills in a fun way.
What you will need:
This game can be played with pretty much any toys from around your home but for the first few times you play this game it’s best to stick to the same toys to help your child become familiar with the game. Some suggestions that we like to use are given below:
An apple (toy or real)
How to play:
- Sit opposite your child so you are face to face
- Introduce your items one at a time to your child to make sure they know the vocabulary. We like to put our toys in a bag to build up anticipation so your child can take them out one at a time.
- Lay out 3 or 4 of the toys at first (e.g. teddy, cup, spoon and apple)
- The aim is for your child to find the items you say, so start off with a simple instruction such as “Find Teddy”. If your child correctly finds teddy give lots of praise (e.g. “teddy! You found teddy, good listening”).
NB: It’s really helpful to specific with praise. This helps your child to learn exactly what they have done well so they can learn to do it again. If they’ve followed an instruction well we like to say “good listening” or, if they’ve said a word well we like “good talking”
- If they don’t find the item first time that’s ok we are teaching them a new skill. Simply repeat the instruction again and if you need to show them what to do (e.g. “teddy… there’s teddy… I found teddy”).
- This game is great as you can slowly build up your expectation on your child’s skills and help them to follow longer and longer instructions. Try a few more times to see if they can “Find the cup” and “Find the apple” then you can think about increasing the difficulty a little.
NB: Be mindful of the clues you give your child when saying the instruction. We naturally want to help our children and often give away subtle clues such as looking at the item or gesturing towards it. If your child is struggling to find the item then these things can help but if you want them to practice following just the spoken instruction then try not to give anything away.
How to extend:
- When a child is finding one item, they are having to make just one choice to correctly follow your instruction (e.g. “Find teddy“). The next level is to ask them to make two choices to follow the instruction and there are many ways you can do this:
- Two choices with just objects – lay out more objects and ask your child to find you two items (e.g. “Find the cup and the spoon“). Make sure you don’t break the instruction down into two or give any clues as this will decrease the difficulty.
- Two choices with people – this time you could ask your child to give the item to someone or something (e.g. “give the apple to mummy” or “give the cup to teddy“)
- Two choices with action words – try introducing actions with a teddy and a dolly (e.g. “brush teddy” or make dolly sleep“).
- If your child is older (2 1/2 – 3 years) then you could even try asking your child to make 3 choices. Here are some ways you can do this:
- Three choices with just objects – lay out about 6 objects and ask your child “find the apple, teddy and spoon“.
- Three choices with people – this time ask your child to give two items to someone or something (e.g. “give teddy the apple and spoon” or “give teddy and dolly to mummy“).
- Three choices with action words – you will need some extra props for this such as a box, blanket or toy/real furniture. This time ask your child to carry out an action in a location (e.g. “make teddy jump on the box” and “make dolly sleep on the blanket“).
- Three choices with location words – again you will need additional props but will just need teddy and dolly for this as you’re going to ask your child to choose between teddy or dolly, a position word (in, on or under) and an object (e.g. “put teddy under the bed“, “put dolly on the box“).
You can be really silly with this one by asking your child to use the toys and objets in ways they wouldn’t normally thing of. A child will use their world knowledge to help them follow instructions (e.g. will naturally put items ‘in’ a bag’ or ‘on’ at chair) so make sure they’re really listening to the instruction by getting them to do something out of the ordinary (e.g. ‘under’ the bed or chair)
- You can play these games out and about as well. Ask your child to find items in the supermarket or in the park.
- When your child is little older let them be the one giving the instruction to you – you can have fun with this pretending to get things wrong to see if they notice.
- Introduce another person to help your child to learn to take turns and wait a little longer (e.g. a brother, sister, another adult or friend).
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