5 Tips for Therapeutic Playtime

Children with special needs require a unique level of support and care. Not only are they learning basic life skills, such as communication, mobility, and how to interact with the world, but they’re also learning about their own abilities and limitations.

Therapeutic playtime is a perfect way to engage a child to help them improve their cognitive and motor skills, meet developmental milestones, and maximize their potential. It’s fun, too!

The short video of Emiliano playing with a balloon as his mom holds the camera and encourages him, as needed, is a great example of therapeutic playtime. Pulling on a balloon string is a creative and fun way to enhance fine motor skills because it provides an immediate response and the sensation of weightlessness.

Here are 5 quick and easy tips you can use to incorporate positive therapeutic playtime in the home:

1. Offer Choices: Children with special needs want choices, which isn’t different from any other child. Choices allow the child to feel like they have more control of their environment. Provide a few choices for playtime, and encourage them to try new things. If you don’t know where to start, ask mom and dad!

2. Incorporate the Senses: Choose games and activities that incorporate a wide range of senses, including sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste, if appropriate. For example, assisting the child with putting on lotion, having them hold a toothbrush during oral care, and brushing their own hair are a few great ways to incorporate multiple senses.

3. Stay Engaged: It’s important to remain engaged and play alongside the child, so you can encourage them along the way. This will help them learn to play with others while giving them space and freedom to develop new skills.

4. Make it Fun!: If you’re introducing a new game or skill, don’t forget to make it fun and exciting by demonstrating emotions. If you’re playing with a Jack-in-the-box, for example, demonstrate the anticipation, patience, and excitement of the game.

5. Educate Yourself: Be sure to educate yourself about the child’s diagnosis, abilities and limitations before you enter the home. Ask more questions when you receive clinical report from your Clinical Manager, do your own research, or participate with the therapist while they’re providing therapies in the home.

What are some of the ways you incorporate therapeutic playtime in the home?

Disclaimer: Please note that it’s important to ask permission from the parent or primary caregiver before you introduce anything new into the home (e.g. the balloon in the video). If you use a balloon as a therapeutic tool, please remember never to leave a child unattended due to the risk of choking and/or suffocation.