8 Tips for enjoying a board game with your autistic child.
I work with a mom who loves playing board games with her child. This is one of her all-time favorite family activities and she genuinely looks forward to the next chance she will have to play a board game with her son.
Unfortunately, her son is often less enthusiastic than she is about playing proposed board games. She can’t understand why. Playing board games seems like such a fun family activity to her.
The problem here is of course that mom and son have different interests at this time. That being said, they have absolutely shared beautiful moments playing board games together in the past and i’m sure that they have many more to come!
If you’d like to share these loving board games moments with your child, here are 8 tips for enjoying a board game with your autistic child that will help you enjoy those moments to the fullest!
1. Cut the game short.
Don’t worry about how long you should be playing the board game. Many of these games are created to last half an hour to an hour. This is probably too long for your autistic child. If that is the case, play for 10 minutes! 10 engaged, beautiful family activity, minutes are worth way more in my book than 30 forced minutes.
2. Toss the rules.
If your child can follow the rules and you can enjoy playing according to them, then by all means, follow the rules. However, if the rules are too complicated for your child to follow at this time, don’t let that keep you from playing the game. Adapt the rules and have fun!
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3. Interaction is more important than anything else.
I know your child has learning goals. I know you have a team working on those learning goals day in and day out. I know you have 1.000.000 things you’d like your child to learn and I respect that. But don’t underestimate the value in a simple moment or moments of connection with your child. If you can cut down the length of the game, toss the rules out the window and just enjoy a few minutes of pure and simple connection with your child, I promise it will be worth it.
4. Allow your child to lie on the floor during the game.
Often in home or center programs, we have a tendency to encourage our little learners to engage in activities either sitting up at the table or sitting on the floor. I absolutely believe it is important to prompt sitting behavior because it’s often easier to capture the child’s attention if he or she is sitting and to increase engagement. However, if you suggest a board game and your child want to lie on his or her stomach and play the game with you, I recommend you go for it! You will most likely end up having a whole lot of fun as a result! (The therapist in me asks that you do correct W sitting though – just in case that is happening! Ok, thanks.)
5. Use the game as an opportunity to reward great behavior!
If we’ve been friends for a while, then you know that I love to coach parents to “catch them being good!”. This means that I think there is amazing value in observing your child, seeing great behavior and commenting on it! As humans, we all have a tendency to notice what we want to change and to spend a lot of time thinking about those things that are not quite right for us or make us uncomfortable. That is fine, and simple human, however, if you start catching your child being good, I promise that you and your child will be so much happier as a result!
During the game, you will have lots of chances to point out everything that your child is doing right! Looking at you, taking turns, identifying a color or a number, laughing with you, laughing with a sibling, etc. (The sky is really the limit on this one!)
This is definitely one of my favorite tips for enjoying a board game with your autistic child
6. Make a scrapbook.
Trying snapping some quick photos during the board game. This will give you fun content for a whole other activity. You could print out the photos and glue them into a scrapbook with your child. You could also talk about the game together and even write some related sentences in your scrapbook.
7. Make it a game.
Wait, what?! A board game is already a game, silly. (Maybe this is what you’re thinking!) What I mean here, is that of course the board game is already a game, however, maybe it’s more of a challenge than a fun activity for your child. If that is the case, you can make it more fun by following your child’s motivation during the game. If your child loves angry birds, maybe for each turn your child takes during the board game, you could draw a little angry bird on a sheet of paper. This will be reinforcing for your child and make the game even more fun!
8. Allow your child to leave.
In the spirit of keeping the board game as a fun and engaging family activity, let your child leave if he or she wants to. If you force your child to stay and play, the board game will quickly become more of a work activity.
Please let me know if you try these tips for enjoying a board game with your autistic child. I would love to hear how it goes!
What are your tips for enjoying a board game with your autistic child?
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