I feel the same way about gas pumps as some of the battery operated toys that keep going and going and going… Do you have those toys at home that go off haphazardly in the middle of night? My garage has one wall lined with toys and inevitably the rooster from an animal puzzle crows when I turn on the light. My favorite is the siren coming from my transportation puzzle as I am driving down the road. That being said, I love my toys that have a reinforcer embedded within the toy. Often, my kiddos with lower arousal levels or with low tone do too! It provides meaning within the activity. But, sometimes the noise coming from a toy distracts from a learning experience. Especially when the toy does not stop and does not allow for the adult to direct the activity. There really should be an on/off switch for every toy. Ever think about toy selection beyond the ABC’s and colors? Ever think about what the child will learn from a toy? Will my child like this toy? What types of prompts am I giving my kiddo, and is it enhancing or inhibiting his/her ability to learn a new skill?
Do you have that kiddo who becomes hyper focused on a toy or object? You attempt to elicit a skill you know they can do but the kiddo can’t right now because the toy has his/her attention? Think about your spouse watching his/her favorite TV show. You stand at the door of the room and ask a question. You may get a head nod or an “mmhmm” but if he/she is not engaged with you, you may not get anything or your question answered. (Psstt… Ask for his/her attention or ask for the TV to be turned off for a moment. Consider writing it down too). Or maybe the kiddo who cannot interact with the toy properly because he/she is distracted by the sound. Some of my favorite toys/games include Barnyard Bingo, Candyland Bingo, Mr. Potato Head, ball towers. Why? Because they are quiet, purposeful, and easy to learn the expectations of. The toy makes sense. There is a definitive way to play with the toy that needs minimal to no direction. For example, Mr. Potato Head. Who does not love this guy? He has been around for 64 years and was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame !
On a side note…I have 4 large tupperware bins full of Mr. Potato Head paraphernalia in my mom’s attic. I almost pulled them out to take pictures of for this post. Anything from salt and pepper shakers to slippers to a kite! And, I would LOVE to have the Potato Head pez dispenser!
Anyways my mom had a Mr. Potato Head set as a child; only at that time you used real potatoes and poked the body parts in. So, why do some kiddos love this toy?! There is your answer…You put the parts in. And then, you take them out. My concrete thinkers and kids struggling to learn what to do with all of their toys love this one because it is simple. The expectation is easy to learn. Now, don’t get me wrong… We work language and following directions into this activity. “Put in”, “Take out”, “My turn”. We identify and label body parts. “Ages 3 and up, its on my box!” (Name that Movie). Remember not to expect your kiddo to identify the body parts on Mr. Potato Head right away. Mr. Potato Head is abstract, but many times if the kiddo is motivated enough, they will get the hand when you ask them or learn the body parts in a structured context. Now do I say “Get the hand, Show me the hand, Point to the hand”? (No, remember the PAUSE button in the last post: Gas Pumps and a World that Keeps Talking: 2). Present a command such as “Get the hand”. If we have been pausing we will have a sense of what the kiddo knows and what, if any, prompts are needed. Set the kiddo up for success and take advantage of teaching moments. Consider presenting the correct answer a little closer to the child than the other item. This is one of my favorite prompting methods because it is simple and often gets the child engaged. And, the child obtains what he/she wants in a successful manner. Remember, we will need to fade that prompt (Incrementally moving the two body part choices closer together as we say “Get the hand.”) Prompt fading is based on the child’s success and our clinical opinion.
Or ask the child to pick the part you anticipate he/she wants… Another great prompt! If we know what the child will gravitate toward, we can set the child up for success within a structured activty. By helping the child be successful, we increase their confidence, and decrease our use of “No, try again.” We are the teacher. Use these opportunities as teaching moments. We can also hide the body parts on the couch, on the back of the couch, under a table, etc to incorporate some movement and climbing while working on location phrases (i.e. “Get the ear under the table.”). Mr. Potato Head can pretend to have a snack or a drink to work on some simple pretend play too. The options are endless! I will talk more about toy selection and why I like some of my preferred toys and games more in another post. But in the meantime parents, what I encourage you to do, is to think about your child and how he learns. What is he attracted to in terms of play? If he/she enjoys container play and putting in and dumping out, then Mr. Potato Head might be a great toy option. I’m from a small town in the Midwest. Not all gas pumps talk, and not all toys need to either. Feel free to comment on this post and share some of your favorite toys that kids gravitate towards!
To receive my weekly posts just enter your email and click sign me up. WordPress will send you a confirmation email. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee and ask a friend to join! Next week we will continue with toy selection, and ways to incorporate some of my favorites into language learning opportunities.