Friday, March 30, 2012

The Magic In “Monkey See, Monkey Do”

This article came to us from Samantha Sawyer, M.A. CCC-SLP, a licensed speech pathologist who specializes in helping children communicate. 

Have you ever wondered how to speed up your child’s skill development and make these interactions more fun and rewarding for both child and caregiver?  I want to share concepts, based on powerful tools I’ve developed over the last eight years, that will show you how to “hide” learning in play, emotional bonding activities, and sensory stimulation.

Spring is a time of inspiration in The Heartland that beckons to get outdoors and fully experience the magical transition from a brown to fresh green landscape.  Engaging your child’s five senses in multi-sensory outdoor play is a great way to stimulate growth and development.

Allowing him the freedom to explore his interests outdoors and creating simple turn-taking games around them will facilitate learning more powerfully than direct instruction.  A bonus to caregivers is that you get to save your breath and allow you child to initiate games rather than look to you to provide all the entertainment.  This results in you having more energy and your child becoming a great learner. 

I used this concept when working with a 14-month old last week.  Our play is always filled with laughter, turn-taking, and new vocabulary.  We were ready for sensory experiences away from the living room, so we stepped out of the house and into the backyard. 

Children give us clues on their best “in” for learning by naturally choosing items that are interesting and motivating to them.  Giving him space, I planted myself in the grass and watched what he went for.  He grabbed a stick, so I followed his lead by also picking one up and holding it to my face for examination. 

Rather than ask questions or talk the whole time, I briefly commented in wonder on the stick’s color, texture, and size.  He started babbling and exploring his stick more until he was tracing it along his arm.  I mimicked his action by trailing my stick along my arm with an exclamation about how it tickled and even felt kind of scratchy.

His eyes brightened, and the smile on his face widened as I copied him.  He took it a step further to see if we were really in this play routine together by putting the stick into his mouth.  As a believer in matching what children do in order to deepen our connection and provide a foundation for safe physical-emotional exploration, I “tasted” my stick too, while increasing the gleam in my eyes. 

He was delighted by this unexpected action and invented new things to do with his stick to see if I would imitate him, which I did.  We shared babbles, giggles, and eye contact that formed a lovely bond between us as he led me in our learning interaction by creating even more ways to explore the stick and hold my attention in our interaction.

Simple turn-taking play that involves all the senses gives your child’s brain new opportunities to perceive and integrate information.  Allow your child to lead you in exploration and express awe and wonder to him through your tone of voice and facial expressions.  Learning through play is natural and easy when it is not forced. Children are curious and naturally want to explore in a playful manner, so save your breath by observing his activities of interest and simply join in. 

Be open to exploration with all your senses as these experiences create new neural pathways in the brain.  You will witness learning happening by the new things he is initiating and the smile on his face.  You can smile, too, knowing that this gentle back and forth play promotes bonding for greater emotional security, attachment, language and learning!

For more information on Samantha and the services she offers to families in their homes, please visit Samantha’s passion is teaching caregivers fun and easy ways to advance their child’s development through play. She may be contacted directly at (651) 785-3059 or 

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