FROM JACK: Howdy fellow Son-Risers! Blankets are wonderful things to have in your playrooms. They are so versatile and lend themselves to so many different games.
At the Autism Treatment Center of America we nearly always put blankets in our playrooms, and I often recommend them to the families I do in-home outreaches with here in the UK.
Here’s a tip – if you are putting a blanket in the playroom, try to find one that is a very loose knit so that even if your child hides under it, you can still see their eyes and notice their “Green Lights”. You could also try using sari fabric, since it is very strong and durable, and generally fairly see-through.
Now, here are 10 of my tried and tested playroom games using blankets:
- Magic Carpet Rides: To work on Clear Single Words, Longer Sentences. Encourage your child to sit on the blanket and give them fun rides around the playroom. Once they are highly motivated, ask them to say the word “Ride” to continue the game. For a fun variation, or for a child with more language, pretend that the Magic Carpet flies to different countries and have a silly activity to do in each country (e.g. in Australia you have to go upside down, in Iceland you shiver in a big way). Invite your child to tell you which country they want to fly to.
- Playroom Hot Dog! To work on Verbal Participation. Invite your child to lay in the middle of the blanket and tell them you’re going to turn them into a giant hot dog! Ask your child to tell you what condiments they want on the hot dog and act out putting each of these on in a funny way (e.g. big slurping sounds for the ketchup, tickles for the pickles). When everything is on the hot dog, wrap your child up in the blanket and pretend to eat them!!
- Down Down Down! To work on Clear Single Words and Eye Contact. A lot of children love the feeling of fabric being lightly brushed over their bodies. When your child is lying down, grab the blanket and slowly drape it down over their bodies, modeling the word “Down” as you do so. Then, pull the blanket back up and start again. Once your child is motivated, you could either encourage them to look at you to get the blanket to come down again, or help them say the word, down.
- What’s Under the Blanket? To work on Verbal Participation, Asking and Answering Simple Questions. Pick a character that you know your child loves. Hide under the blanket and tell your child that you have turned into someone new underneath there. You could even make funny noises or animal sounds if they are appropriate for who you have turned into. Encourage your child to ask you questions to find out who you have turned into (e.g. “Do you have fur?” “Are you from Toy Story?”) – you may have to model some questions for them first. When they work it out, burst out from under the blanket and have fun acting out your character for your child. Continue the game by taking turns to hide under the blanket.
- Silly Sneezes. To work on Eye Contact, Physical Participation. Stuff the blanket down your t-shirt! Every time your child looks at you, celebrate them and sneeze in a big way, at the same time, pulling some of the blanket out of your t-shirt. Continue doing so every time your child looks until you sneeze out the entire blanket and throw it across the room! As an added element, you could ask your child to go and get the blanket and bring it back to you so you can start the game again!
- Playroom Rocket! To work on Physical Participation. Lay out the blanket on the floor and tell your child that it is a Space Rocket that needs fixing so you can fly to the moon! Have a couple of wings cut out of paper (or ask your child to help you make them) and invite your child to stick them onto the rocket so it can fly. Use a small watering can and tell your child that the rocket also needs fuel and ask them to fill it up using the (empty!) watering can. You can now fly to the moon! Get your child to lie in the middle of the blanket, wrap them up tightly, hold onto the end by their feet and swing them round in a circle, fast! (This works easier with smaller children, although you can spin older children around on the floor if they like it)
- Animal Peek-a-boo! To work on Physical Participation. Hide under the blanket and encourage your child to come over lift it up. When they do, pop out from underneath and make a big animal sound! Repeat the game, popping out as a different animal every time your child lifts up the blanket.
- Super Body Squeezes. To work on Clear Single Words. Many children love having deep pressure exerted over their entire body, and the blanket is a great way to give them this! When your child gives you a “Green Light”, offer to wrap them up in the blanket. Try to wrap their bodies up as tightly as possible (if they like that sensation) – a bit like swaddling a baby! Once you have done so, use the blanket to squeeze their entire body! Once your child is really motivated for this, encourage them to say the word “Squeeze” to get more squeezes.
- Create a Scene. To work on Verbal Participation. Print out characters from your child’s favourite book/show. Lay the blanket out on the floor and use it as the background on which to create your very own scene, using the pictures you have printed out! Excitedly tell your child that you get to make up your own story and start putting a couple of characters in place on the blanket, making up your story as you do so. Encourage your child to join in and share their ideas for the story as together you build up this fun scene!
- Picnic Time! To work on Attention Span, Physical Participation. Before your child comes into the playroom, hide various pieces of a toy tea-set around the room. Lay the blanket out on the floor and tell your child that you are going to have a picnic with all your playroom friends! Together, you and your child and gather all their favourite toys and teddies to come and sit on the blanket when suddenly you realize that the cheeky ants have stolen all your food! Together you and your child have to search the playroom to find all the pieces of the tea-set so that you can all enjoy your picnic together.
Have lots and lots of fun trying out these games! Remember, the key thing is that YOU enjoy yourself while playing them!