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  • Allyson Coe, OTR, MOT

Appropriate Play Skills


Within occupational therapy, occupations refer to the everyday activities that individuals engage in to occupy their time and bring meaning and purpose to their life. Occupations include the things people need to, have to do, and want to do within their every day life. For children play is their main occupation and it plays a vital role in their development. Through play children develop gross motor, fine motor, social, emotional regulation, and cognitive skills. Not to mention, play time is a time for kids to just be kids. Play is a time they can get messy, have fun, and learn from their experiences. For some children, though, developing appropriate play skills may not come quite so naturally.

As a parent you can help to promote your child's play no matter their age. The American Occupational Therapy Association has provided some helpful tips for how families can help promote their child's play skills.

In early childhood, parents can:

  • Encourage a baby to play while lying on their back, belly, side, or while supported on their parent's lap.

  • Promote activities such as dress-up and puppets, along with toy cars and trains in order to develop a child's imitation and pretend play

  • Coordination skills can be developed through toys such as building toys and puzzles.

For families of elementary school children, AOTA provides these recommendations:

  • Have your child participate in board games and sports activities in order to help encourage the learn how to appropriately follow the rules.

  • Promote play opportunities that incorporate both structured and less structured options such as being on a school sports team compared to playing soccer in the backyard with neighborhood friends.

  • Encourage your child's school to support recess as a necessary part of every kid's day, as it can be an essential time for physical movement that can also help promote more effective learning and positive behavior through social interactions with peers.

Some of the suggestions for middle schools included:

  • Ask questions your child about their preferences in movies, music, or hobbies in order to indicate your interest in their lives, encourage positive hobbies and free time activities, and to spark conversation with your kid.

  • Encourage your preteen to join school and community-based clubs and after-school activities in order to promote peer interactions, team building, and responsibility.

  • Consider your own habits and routines of leisure you model to your children as a parent, and whether they include physical activities and model a balanced lifestyle of work and play.

For more information on the importance of promoting play and additional suggestions, check out the following link:

http://www.aota.org/-/media/corporate/files/practice/children/browse/play/building%20play%20skills%20tip%20sheet%20final.pdf

#pediatricoccupationaltherapy #occupationaltherapy #playskills #developmentalmilestones #socialskills

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