For the 24th and final day in our Advent Calendar of Christmassy Activities I made a Gingerbread Man felt set for Penguin to play with. Or rather, for us both, to be honest 😊
I cut the shape of a gingerbread man out of brown felt, placed him on a green piece of felt as base/background, and the cut out various small pieces in different colours, to be added as buttons, hair, clothes, eyes and other facial features etc.
I played around with the shapes and made a few versions of how this gingerbread fellow could be ‘dressed up’, and I took pictures of each of them. I then printed and laminated those images, so that Penguin would have a few suggestions to copy, to get him going. Play that is open ended can be tricky for some autistic children, and it is for Penguin. Having pictures to copy offers a clear idea of what to do, avoiding uncertainty and confusion.
Printing images of what to do with a play set like this might seem restrictive to the childs creativity and imagination. But for us it works as a great ‘gateway’ into the activity. Copying the pictures helps in getting the hang of how the materials work, and opens up for own ideas further on.
Playing with these tactile materials helps in developing visual discrimination and fine motor skills, and offers learning opportunities regarding facial expressions, shapes, colours, body parts, and simple numeracy. It can also be used for practicing communication.
We started by copying the most simple of my pictures, after which it developed into a more collaborative play/exercise, where we took turns in adding or changing details in the Gingerbread Man’s outfit. So turn-taking, joint attention, and social interaction can also be developed with the help of this festive felt figure 🙂👍