On my blog, I talk a lot about the importance and value of imaginative and exploratory play.
Children spend so much of their lives being told what to do, how to do it, and for how long.
Structure plays an important role for many children within academic settings, and for certain portions of many home environments (i.e. chores, meals, homework, bedtime, etc.).
This is not to say that I do not approve of structure: in my personal and professional experience, I have found that structure, when consistent and balanced, provides children with a sense of comfort, control, and overall self-regulation.
When children are left in an environment with tools that are conducive to exploration and expansion of the imagination, the benefits of social navigation, as well as cognitive, speech and language, self-regulation, sensory, motor, and visual perceptual/motor skill components are developed and expanded upon in a child's most natural role: play.
Lately, the weather has been great by me.
Some of the really simple and spontaneous activities that my kids came up with while playing this past week were:
They worked collaboratively and mixed water and dirt in a pail, using three spoons. I think that they added some leaves as 'spices'. Yum.
This was a great sensory activity, as well, especially incorporating the use of touch (the tactile system).
The fact that they negotiated socially who would get spoons, who would pour the water first, etc. really worked on navigating peer relationships.
They decided to make grass angels instead of snow angels, and loved feeling the grass on their skin.
This was such a simple and creative game that they came up with, and I was struck by the many developmental skills that it addressed.
Basically, under the grass on my lawn (and under grass in general), if you look closely you can see certain small patches where the dirt is more easily spotted (I hope it's not just my lawn!).
They would then jump from one patch to another.
So, items to buy or bring? Almost none - just three plastic spoons and a pail!
The hours spent laughing, creating, and learning? Countless.
Does your child have an autism diagnosis?