When working in an in-home environment, it is important to keep your client engaged in the task to optimize learning opportunities. That is where creative play techniques become helpful. Creative play is when therapists use their client’s familiar materials in novel ways to promote learning in a new and exciting way. The clients can become more engaged and new learning opportunities can arise.
Creative play techniques are also important if there are limited stimuli available. By presenting the same stimuli in new ways can help to keep the client engaged. An example of presenting stimuli in a new and interesting way could be by hiding different colored cards around the house and asking the client to “bring you the red card”. It turns learning colors into a scavenger hunt.
Another technique is making old toys new and interesting. By making the client’s everyday toys more exciting, the reinforcing value can increase. You can also use social games to help run programs. If you have a tacting program you are currently running, you can turn it into an eye spy game. This can help to promote social interaction as well as creativity.
Revamping old board games is another way to encourage creative play. By modifying or changing the rules, old games that they are satiated on become more interesting and more exciting. An example of this could be writing programs on Janga blocks, and while playing Janga they have to act out the gross motor skill you could be working on, or read the block for a reading comprehension program.
Session style is another aspect you can alter. By running session outside, or in a blanket fort you make together creates a new learning environment that can promote generalization. It important for skills to generalize across people, settings, and environments, generalization helps the skill maintain.
Maintenance is another important aspect. When running the same programs over and over again, the client can get bored and not want to answer, In the past when this has happened to me I will represent the task in a more exciting way and they are more likely to respond correctly.
Another strategy that is commonly used is rotating toys. You could do this by either bringing your own stash of toys. By bringing your own toys and stimuli it is easier to keep track of how often the client has access to it. By doing this, it will take a longer period of time for the client to become satiated. Another way to accomplish this strategy is by asking the clients parents or guardians if they could discreetly take a few toys or items from their toy box and store them in a place the client does not have access to them. By doing this and having those items stored for an extended period of time, the client will reach a state of deprivation so when they are presented again, they have regained the reinforcing value they once had.
Some things to keep in mind are Even if you are not running a formal program (except when they are on break), the client should be learning. Also, if you are not having fun, the client is not having fun!