Play aids in children's development socially, intellectually, emotionally and creatively. For some classrooms, hiring an art or music therapist is an alternative, but for many it is not. The games listed here cost little or nothing and can be fun for everyone involved. Avoid games that require social skills, a high degree of teamwork, or structured situations because these can be too much for a low-functioning child.
Most low-functioning children can do puzzles, provided they are designed for the younger child. The puzzles should have larger pieces and simpler images. Once you see your child can do one puzzle, try a new one. You might be surprised at just how good your student can be. Some students may enjoy doing the same puzzle over and over again. You can find inexpensive puzzles at dollar stores or make your own by cutting up calendar pictures.
Some preschool board games, such as Chutes and Ladders, are very manageable for the low-functioning child, who usually is very pleased when he finishes the game. Don't be adamant about following the rules and overlook any mistakes, such as counting or moving the piece in the wrong direction. Positive experiences are much more valuable to the child than winning or even finishing the game.
Candy Land is another game appropriate for the low-functioning child. Games where the child can match shapes can be very engaging and enjoyable. Another good game is Hungry, Hungry Hippo. Instead of ending the game when one player's marbles are all gone, eliminate the competitive aspect of the game and have it end when everyone's marbles are gone.
The Best Part of Your Day
Take time for a little socialization and acceptance. Everyone sits in a circle, then the teacher asks one student by name, "What was the best part of your day?" Any answer, however brief, is acceptable. Show interest in the answer and ask some questions about the answer to build socialization skills; however, don't force responses if the child is reluctant to engage in a dialogue. Sometimes the child will need a prompt, and you might ask what he had for lunch. When each child is done with his answer, he asks the question of another child until all have answered. It's an added plus if snacks can be provided.
Arts and Crafts
Wet chalk painting is simple and fun and it doesn't smudge when dry because the chalk is dipped in water. All you need is chalk (large sticks), some white tempura paint, water and a piece of paper. Each child asks for the colors she wants to work with. She dips the chalk in water, then lightly in tempura and creates the drawing. If you'd like, you can mount the dried pieces on newspaper or wrapping paper. Again, a sense of completion is very beneficial to the child.
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