Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Summer 2011

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Summer Play Date Ideas

Written by Lisa Chavez, with contributions from Noreen Laberinto (Lovaas Institute, San Diego) and Naomi Onley (Learning for Life Treatment Centre in Melbourne)

With the kids out of school, summer is an excellent time to set up some play dates to help your child stay connected with friends and further develop social, language and play skills. A successful play date will keep the kids actively participating, having fun and wanting more! Here are some entertaining ideas to get you started.

Play Date Idea 1 – Movie Mania

  1. Give each child movie and concession tickets, or you can give them play money to "buy" movie tickets and refreshments. This is a great opportunity to practice pretend play and making purchases. Set up the kitchen counter or table to look like a concession stand, offering foods such as popcorn, hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, candy and beverages.
  2. Watch the movie. You can also select an episode of a children's show if a movie will be too long. This is a good time to practice attention skills.
  3. Discuss the movie. Have each child state his or her favorite character, favorite part of the movie, etc. This is a great time to practice recall, conversation and language skills.
  4. Next the children can create movie-related art projects. For example, after watching the movie Cars, the kids can create their own cars out of large cardboard boxes (glue on paper plates for wheels and construction paper headlights, paint the body of the car). Or, after watching Finding Nemo, the kids can make their own aquarium out of shoeboxes (use paint, construction paper, stickers, glitter, etc.). Coloring pages can also be used if supplies are not available for more elaborate projects. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice social and language skills (e.g., sharing supplies, discussing the art project, etc.).
  5. Lead the children in a fun activity related to the movie. For example, play the movie soundtrack and have a dance party! Or have the kids get inside their homemade cars and play Red Light Green Light! Or place small plastic fish inside a wading pool and let the kids pretend to go fishing! This is the perfect time to get the kids active and laughing!

Play Date Idea 2 – Beating the Heat

  1. Using clear plastic cups, show the kids how to decorate their own ice cream dishes with stickers and paint. Facilitate social interaction during this time. While the paint dries, engage the kids in some water play as discussed below!
  2. Spray water bottle activities: There are several ways to play with this simple household item! Here are some ideas:
    1. Freeze Tag: Tag the person by blasting them with a spray of water!
    2. Hide and Seek: Spray the person when you locate them!
    3. Dodge: With the adult standing in the middle of the yard and armed with a spray bottle, have the kids run from one end of the yard to the other. Their goal is to avoid getting sprayed with water while they run for the "safety zone!" Each child can also have a turn being the sprayer.
  3. Water hose: Use the water stream from a water hose as a sort of jump rope or limbo stick. Have the kids take turns jumping over or ducking under the stream. Beware of the stream's unpredictable movements!
  4. Water balloon toss: Play a game of Hot Potato or simply toss the balloons back and forth. You can also have the kids throw them at a target.
  5. Ice cream bar: Set up an ice cream buffet with a variety of toppings. Scoop some ice cream into each personalized cup, then hand them back to the kids so they can put on their own toppings. Use this time to practice conversation skills!

Play Date Idea 3 – The Great Outdoors

  1. Pitch a tent in the backyard or build a fort using chairs, crates, bins, sheets, blankets, etc. Have the kids help.
  2. Using toilet paper tubes (paper towel or wrapping paper tubes can also be used), have the kids make their own binoculars (glue or rubberband two tubes together). Allow them to decorate their binoculars with stickers, paint, construction paper, fabric, wrapping paper, etc.
  3. Go on a nature hunt. Provide the kids with a list of items to look for (e.g., 1 flower, 2 different bugs, 5 sticks, 3 leaves, etc.). Have them use their "binoculars" to locate the items.
  4. Head back to the campground, and build a pretend fire using sticks from the nature hunt. Ask the kids to share/discuss what they found on the hunt. Then sing songs and read a story.
  5. Help the kids make some outdoor themed snacks (e.g., ants on a log, dirt pudding, s'mores). They can head back outside and eat them by the "campfire."

Variation: Rather than homemade binoculars, you can allow the kids to take nature photographs with a digital camera. Print some of the photos on your home printer, then allow each child to make frames for them using popsicle sticks and decorating supplies (e.g., paint, glitter, stickers, etc.).

Play Date Idea 4 – Sensory Party

  1. Set up 3-4 different sensory centers, and allow the kids to explore. This is a great time for the children to warm up to each other, and to practice parallel, cooperative and interactive play. Here are some ideas for sensory centers:
    1. Fill a large container with rice or beans. Hide some objects inside. Create a word or picture checklist of the hidden objects for the children to find.
    2. Do the same with a bucket of goop. Here is a recipe: combine 2 cups of corn flour per 1 cup of cold water. Add cold water gradually and stop when the water is barely absorbed by the corn flour – if you add too much, it will be runny.
    3. Fill a large plastic container, bucket or wading pool with water and various water toys (e.g., squirt toys, sponges, squish balls, small pitchers, water wheel, etc.).
    4. Set out PlayDoh and various cutters and tools.
    5. Cover a table or some trays with shaving cream, and allow the children to trace in it with their fingers.
  2. Lead the kids in a fun, zany activity that will get them moving. Here are some ideas:
    1. Turn on some music and have a pillow fight or toss stuffed animals at each other.
    2. Let the kids spray silly string at each other or at you!
    3. Turn on some music, blow bubbles, and let the kids dance around in them.
    4. Get out musical instruments and start a marching band. March around the backyard or house, perhaps incorporating a game of Follow the Leader.
    5. Place some cotton balls on a table, hand each child a straw, and have them race to see who can blow their cotton ball to the other end of the table first.
  3. Snack Time! Set up a snack buffet of foods with different textures (e.g., crunchy crackers, chewy fruit snacks, mushy pudding, juicy watermelon). Encourage conversation during this time.
  4. Set out some fingerpaints and allow the kids to create their own artwork.
  5. Have the kids sit on some pillows or bean bags and read them a story. Discuss the story after to practice listening comprehension, recall, and answering wh- questions.

Play Date Idea 5 – Pretending with Peers

  1. Set out some pretend play toys and materials (e.g., figurine sets, cars, blocks for creating building/streets, dolls, play food and dishes, etc.) and allow the children to explore and warm up to each other.
  2. Play dress up! Set out costumes, clothing and accessories for the children to dress up in. In addition, have them create their own accessories! For example, they can make masks out of paper plates, crowns out of construction paper, and necklaces out of yarn and beads or dry pasta. You can even bring out some face paint or makeup!
  3. Set up a pretend play activity. You can select the theme or you can have the kids choose the theme (to be fair, you might ask them to each come up with ideas, then write them down on strips of paper and select one from a hat or other container). Example themes include:
    1. Restaurant: Make pretend menus out of construction paper. Each child can take turns being the customer and the server. They can use play food and dishes, or you can set out some snacks and use real food.
    2. Store: Set up a pretend shop. Have each child take turns being the cashier and the customer. Use play money and have them pretend to make purchases.
    3. Firefighters: Pretend to put out fires and rescue people. A water hose can be used if this is done outside.
    4. Fashion show: Continue dress up play. The children can take turns walking down the "runway" or taking pictures with a real or pretend camera.
    5. Doctor: The kids can take turns being the patient and the doctor. Use play medical instruments or practice symbolic play by using other items to represent medical instruments (e.g., headphones as a stethoscope, tape as a bandaid, a pen for a shot, etc.).
    6. Royal ball: Turn on some Disney princess music and pretend to dance at the royal ball.
  4. Lead the kids in a game of charades! Have them each contribute a list of 5 items to act out, write down the items on strips of paper, then take turns selecting a strip of paper and acting out what is written. This might be a great time to set out a bowl of popcorn and some beverages!

Do you have other ideas of skills to incorporate? Share them with us here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.


The Big Sneeze: Pretend you are going to sneeze and really exaggerate. Start to sneeze but then stop before actually completing it. Do this a few times to build anticipation before the big sneeze! For example, "Oh no, I have to sneeze! Ah Ah Ahhh Ahhh Ahh..oh, it went away." Then, "Oh, my sneeze is coming back! Ah Ahhh Ahhh Ahhh...Oh man, it went away again!" Then, "Oh wait, it's back! Ahh Ahh Ahh AHH-CHOO!!!" Try tickling the child when you say, "CHOO!!"

Two Man Band: Let the child lie on their side across your lap, and singing their favorite song, play them like a guitar (strumming their belly)! Rock out even harder by dancing around the room with your kidtar!

Cuckoo Clock: Hold the child under their armpits, and swinging them from side to side, chant, "Tick Tock, tick tock, I'm a little cuckoo clock! Tick tock, tick tock, now I'm striking 1 o' clock," then bounce the child up in the air and say, "Cuckoo!" Add an extra "cuckoo!" and bounce for each increment of time (e.g., "cuckoo! cuckoo!" plus two bounces for 2 o' clock).

Don't Go Anywhere: Pretend like you're leaving the room and say, "I'll be right back, don't go anywhere!" Then quickly pop back into the room and exclaim, "I said don't go anywhere!" Continue in a similar manner a few more times for silly fun!

Where'd it go? Using a stuffed animal, favorite character or other toy, have the child close their eyes while you "hide" the toy in an obvious but silly location (e.g., on top of your head, coming out of your sleeve, etc.). Then ask, "Hey, where'd it go?" and let the child find the toy. The child can also take turns hiding the toy!




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