Aim of the game:
This is a great way of being part of your child’s playtime and giving them a reason to communicate with you. Being the ‘Piece Keeper’ means that whatever game you are playing, you are in control of the pieces so your child is gently encouraged to interact with you, request and communicate that they want another piece. Motivation is fundamental to communication and this fun game inspires children to use their skills with toys that may otherwise be played with on their own.
What you will need:
This game can be played with any number of toys but it needs to be a game that has many parts to it. You are the ‘Piece Keeper’ so you will need to keep hold of the pieces or parts of the game so we suggest putting them in a bag or box (it also helps to build up excitement and anticipation if they can’t see inside!). You child then gets a piece one at a time creating lots of opportunities for communication. We’ve given you some of our favourites below but feel free to use your own ideas and imagination.
A bag or box to put any of the following toys in:
A click clack track or ball run
Building blocks or stacking cups
Inset puzzle or shape sorter
Posting box with posting items
Lotto board and matching pictures
Commercial motivator games such as Pop up Pirate or Puff the Dragon
How to play:
- Choose your set of toys that you wish to play with, we’ll use an inset puzzle in this example.
- Place the puzzle pieces in a bag with the puzzle board in front of your child and sit opposite them so you are face to face.
- Introduce the bag to your child (you could sing the ‘what’s in the bag?’ song if you wish), let them take one of the puzzle pieces out of the bag and put it in the puzzle.
- This is an opportunity for them to have a go at saying what it is with a gentle prompt from you if needed (e.g. “you found the….[pause for them to respond]”)
Try to avoid asking direct questions like “what’s that?” or “what have your got?”, as your child takes a piece out of the bag. Direct questions have good intentions but aren’t always that helpful, especially when children are still learning how to say words, and some children may shut down from the pressure. Try a leading sentence like the example above or you could give a choice question (e.g. “Did you find cow or horse?”). This helps them out a little with finding the word and helps them practice saying it on their terms if they’re ready.
- Rattle the bag to get regain their attention and ask your child “more puzzle?”
- Wait and watch for your child to request ‘more’ with a gesture, words or phrase. As your child gets older you can make your model longer to so they can copy a longer sentence if they’re ready (e.g. “another go” or “another puzzle piece”).
- Reward any attempt at communication by letting them choose a puzzle piece. If they’re not using words yet that’s ok, this is a great game to continue to play to help them to use words when they’re ready.
- Repeat until the bag is empty and the inset puzzle is complete.
How to extend:
- This can be done at snack and meal times too by just giving a little of something they like to eat. The best snacks for this are things like raisins, satsumas, slices of banana or apple. For example, have the pieces in a bowl and offer your child one piece by saying “banana” as you put it on their plate. Wait for them to finish eating and look at you again (you may need to waggle the bowl around a little to remind them you have more). Once you’ve got their attention offer “more?” or “more banana?”, reward their attempt at communication by putting another piece of banana on their plate.
- Offer a choice of two different snack items to see if they can combine two words together to request ‘more apple’ or ‘more banana’ or even ‘more raisins please’.
- You can also do this game without any toys whatsoever by turning it into a ‘people game’. This is where your interaction with your child is the game, such as tickle or chase. For example, tickle your child for a few seconds and pause until the giggles subside. Wait and look at them expectantly, when you have their attention again ask “more tickle?”. Wait for them to show or tell you they want more and then tickle them again.
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Please help us to improve this post!
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