Disclosure: This post is about a book that we’ve been gifted a copy of, for the purpose of this review. What I share below are my own honest thoughts about the book, and our experience of the activities we’ve tried so far.
Last week saw the release of a fab new book called ‘100 ways your child can learn through play’, by Georgina Durrant of The SEN Resources Blog. The subheading of the book is ‘Fun activities for young children with SEN’ [SEN = Special Educational Needs], but the activities are actually not only great ones for disabled children, but for typically developing young children too!
Also, I very much appreciate that Georgina mentions in her preface that some activities may need to be further adapted, depending on your child’s individual needs and disabilities. For someone like me, who almost always needs to adapt activites for Penguin, it feels very positive that the author recognises this and shows a great understanding of how much individual abilities can vary.
The activities in the book are grouped in six different categories/chapters:
- In the Garden
- On a Walk
- Sitting Still
- Rainy Day Play
- Sensory Play
Each chapter has 16-17 activities, and each activity is presented on a single page, all using the same clear structure: Starting with a short general description of what the activity is all about, followed by what equipment you’ll need, and then a step-by-step instruction on how to play, explained in 3-4 simple steps. After that follows suggestions on alternative ways to play, extra adjustments you could make to challenge, adapt or vary the activity, and finally some ‘parent/carer tips‘. At the bottom of each page is an overview of which key skills that each activity can help develop or improve, such as concentration, motor skills, sensory integration, language & communication, literacy/numeracy etc.
One thing that I love about this book, is how sensory aspects play a significant part in most of the activities throughout the book, so they’re far from confined to just the final chapter (which is specifically about sensory play activities). The role of sensory rich activities for learning and development, particularly for children who are autistic (as my son is), has been a super important aspect for us since embarking on our home educating life over four years ago, and it’s also the main reason behind the name of this blog of ours (as I explained in a post on here, back when blogging was still quite new to me: How do you mean, “sensational”? ).
When it comes to play, it’s something that hasn’t really come naturally to our son. He was quite keen on some basic forms of play as a young toddler, until he approached about 2 years old. He then regressed in his development, and became less able to interact actively with people around him. It took quite some time for us to ‘reconnect’ and find ways of ‘playing’ together – and when we did, it often didn’t (still doesn’t) look like what playing is like for most children and their parents. Joining him in what he enjoyed, rahter than pulling at him to ‘play normally’ has been absolute key. For example, one of the early ways we ‘reconnected’ was through me joining him in rocking side to side while standing in front of the tv, while watching his favorite videos. We could then expand on that to become a kind of dancing together, holding hands, spinning etc.
So, I think it’s fair to say that playing together has been complex for us. Our boy has now reached the mature age of 14 (fourteen! Time flies!), which means he’s not really within the age group of ‘young children’ that this book is primarily intended for. However, as his disabilities means he is developmentally delayed in many areas, and often enjoy things intended for much younger children, many of the activities still suit him well. And quite a few of them he would not have been able to do yet when he was a ‘young child’ himself. There are also some activities which he’s now outgrown, which could have been great for him when he was younger.
We have been trying out a few activities from the book – often with some adaptations – and have enjoyed most of the ones we’ve tried so far. I particularly liked making ‘Salt Dough Fossils’ together with Penguin (that’s our son’s nickname) the other day, and for that activity we followed the instruction as in the book, apart from choosing to use seashells rather than dinosaurs. The recipe for salt doung was super simple and turned out well. Only issue we had is that Penguin loves salt, and has been keen to bite into the finished fossil ‘cookies’, which is not a good idea as they are too salty to be safe for eating. Other than that, the Salt Dough Fossils activity has been a hit for us. The fact that a product is produced in the activity helps Penguin seeing it as a meaningful thing to do.
Another activity which worked well for us was ‘Painting Letters On Ice’. The idea is for the child to copy letters through a layer of ice, and we pretty much followed the instructions, though I skipped getting any brushes or pens out for Penguin to use, as I felt that using his index finger would be more exciting from a sensory perspective (I know he likes to touch ice, and doesn’t mind a bit of paint on his fingers – if your child doesn’t like that, then it would of course be better to use a paintbrush etc).
The book says to write some letters on a sheet of paper and place it under the ice for your learner to copy/trace. Penguin already knows how to write all the letters of the alphabet, so I thought a relevant word might suit him better and I decided to write “ICE”, which he happily traced in blue paint. Next I thought we could just enjoy the primary colours red, yellow and blue, so I drew a kind of flag and used that for him to copy the colours of on the ice sheet.
I put a bowl of warmish water on the table too, for rinsing his fingers, and to rinse the ice sheet clean. I chose warm water mainly to offer a sensory contrast to the cold ice. We also noticed that it quickly got a lot colder when we popped the ice sheet in there.
At the end of the activity, Penguin poured all the warmer water (which by this time was quite cold) into the main dish, and broke the ice sheet into pieces. All good sensory fun.
One of the activities we’ve tried didn’t quite work out for us, and that was the Colourful Bubble Sock. I suspected in advance that it might not be a great success, as Penguin isn’t easily ‘wowed’ (by anything really), but also because he likes to take things apart to investigate… Which is what he did almost immediately with the sock-on-bottle contraption I’d put together for this activity. So it was over almost as soon as it started. Oh well!
There are one or two other activities in the book which I think we would face similar issues with. And if I was ever to write a similar book myself, I would probably avoid saying that ‘children will love’ a certain activity, or that they will find certain things hilarious. Because some children (such as our boy) will be reluctant about most new activities, and rarely display great joy in any kind of organised play (he often approaches it more as a task to complete, than something to do just because it’s fun). So for me personally, I feel a little sting of sadness when I hear that ‘children will love this’, and my boy doesn’t. A bit like when other parents talk about funny things their kids have said, while my child’s ability to communicate is extremely limited.
That said, I’m nonetheless delighted that we’ve been gifted this book. I feel it has given me renewed inspiration for incorporating more play activities into our learning at home. I also appreciate how, in her preface to the book, author Georgina Durrant describes it as “a sort of ‘play recipe book’ “, and encourages us to experiement with the ‘recipes’ and adjust them according to what ingedients you may wish to exclude or add.
Having read all the activity ‘recipes’, and having thought about what adjustments to make to suit our son’s likes and dislikes, his sensory preferences and differing abilities/disabilities, I’m happy to say that over half of the recipes have good potential of being enjoyed by us, despite our boy being quite a ‘selective eater’ when it comes to play activities, as well as being older that the intended target group for this book. I look forward to us doing more of these activities together, and as we do so, I intend to share about it – primarily instagram and facebook, so please come follow us there too!
[EDIT: GIVEAWAY IS NOW FINISHED] Now you have the chance to win your own copy of ‘100 Ways Your Child Can Learn Through Play’! To join the competion click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway! Competition is open for UK residents only, and closes at midnight BST on Wednesday 7 July (that means open all Tuesday UK time, until midnight). Best of luck! x [EDIT: This giveaway is now finished, and a winner has been randomly selected using the Rafflecopter application. Thank you to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the lucky winner, who’s been contacted via email.]
PS. The book can be bought through most major bookstores as well as some smaller independent retailers, and via Amazon. Currently available from Blackwells, Waterstones, Early Years Resources, Bookshop.org and SEN Books, among others.
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