By Elise Wulff, MEd

Even as a child, I had a love-hate relationship with snow days. I can empathize with our participants and families who experience this mixed sentiment. A snow day can mean a relief from (often un-preferred) academic demands or the exhausting socializing that comes with school settings. Snow days can also bring increased anxiety with less predictability and structure. While there isn’t yet the perfect solution to this snow-day predicament, we can provide some research-supported strategies to help you have productive fun, Aspire style!

Child groups at Aspire are based in play. Play is a naturally occurring developmental tool that we all engage with in our own unique ways. For our participants, the social expectations of play are sometimes lagging or absent, which might have been what led you to Aspire. Do we teach play? No. Can we teach concepts of play? Yes. Specifically, a core social competency required to find success with play is co-regulation. In the words of Speech and Language Pathologist Linda Murphy, “Co-regulation simply means that each person acts in response to his or her partner; that is, each responds to the other contingently, moment to moment, without controlling what the other person is doing. In lay terms, this would be described as being ‘in sync.’” (Co-Regulation: The Basis for All Social Interaction, published in Autism Spectrum Quarterly, Summer 2011)

Dr. Steve Gutstein designed and built a model to develop play through co-regulation known as Relationship Development Intervention (RDI). In this model, children, with support, engage in structured play to practice foundational social skills (joint attention, social referencing, etc.) in a way that is appealing and natural to the child. Higher-order social skills we hope to grow (turn-taking, conversation mechanics, building relationships, etc.) are built on these foundational skills. Co-Regulation can be practiced in structured activities where, in short, my next move depends on what you just did. In order to play in an activity, I use my eyes to take in clues from my environment. Then, that information informs my next behavior. Then, your turn! Together, we are co-regulating.

Now, back to the Snow Day help.

Some examples of activities that you can try out to practice co-regulation:

*Note: The following activities can be done in a pair and/or progressively working up to a trio or larger groups.

  • The Mirror Game: Facing a partner, designate a MOVER and a MIRROR. The Mover will (with feet planted) move his/her body and face. The Mirror must copy.
    • Suggestions: Try with a focus on a specific body part. Try playing around with pacing and tempo.
  • Zip-Zap-Zop: Sit across from a partner or in a circle. One person begins with a hand gesture directed towards another person in the group. The first person ‘sends’ the energy with a ‘ZIP.’ Person 2 receives the energy and passes it along with a ‘ZOP.’ In order to be successful in this game, you must observe and attend to others.
    • Suggestions: Try using just one word to start “Zip…Zip…Zip” and work up to “Zip…Zap…Zop…Zip…Zap….” Try to increase the speed of the passes.
  • Ball Rolls: Seated or standing in a circle, pass a ball around. Then, add a second ball, and so on.
    • Suggestions: Play around with pacing; could one ball move at one pace and the other at a different pace? Try a variety of balls of different sizes, weights, colors, textures to add an additional sensory experience.
  • Shared Building (LEGO, Marble Run): In shared building activities, we establish a common goal - what are we building? Once we have an intended outcome, we share materials to move towards that goal. In order to stay on track, we need to regularly observe the other individual and ask: Are they doing what I’m doing? Am I doing what they’re doing?
  • Improv Games: All improv games require individuals to be constantly referencing what is happening around them and responding in agreement in real-time. Although I may have an outline of where I would like a scene to go, I must be comfortable living flexibly within that outline. Some examples of improv games matched for our group include:
    • Inventor: Using a given (neutral) object, give it an identity and function (example: a box becomes a TV, a toilet-paper roll becomes extend-able arms). Explain your object to the group. The next person must use the SAME object and create a new identity and function.
    • Machine: As a group, we identify a type of machine (pizza-maker, satellite). One person begins by standing a demonstrating a repeating motion and sound. The next person physically connects to the first person (in a way that allows them to continue their movement) and adds on a repeating movement and sound. The ‘machine’ is complete when all group members have been added.
    • Circle Story: The group builds a cohesive story one sentence at a time. Prior to beginning the activity, we determine a subject of the story and a theme (silly, scary, action, etc.). One at a time, going around the circle, each person adds one sentence on to the story. Each person must continue the story (rather than oppose something that has already happened) and maintain our previewed theme.

Looking for other ways to pass the time on cold and snowy days?

Consider joining us for our February Vacation Week program! We have groups for ages 5 – 8 and 9 – 13.

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