Last updated on April 16th, 2020 at 11:35 am
Because nobody likes to learn everything at a desk! And nobody should have to, especially when learning skills in a variety of contexts can be very beneficial for learning.
According to a classic psychology experiment, you are more likely to remember new information if you are tested in the place where you learned the material. So scuba divers who were taught information on land recalled the info better when they were tested again on dry land and the divers who were taught under water recalled the info more accurately when tested under the deep blue sea.
Now if you relate this back to teaching your child, if you only teach them things at the table, then the chances are that they will be less likely to perform this skill in other contexts.
For example, you may have taught your child at the table how to differentiate between the colours red, yellow and green. But can they identify the colour red when it is lit up on a traffic light on their local street?
So how do you start incorporating teaching within your child’s natural environment?
The key to teaching successfully in a play-based setting is motivation, motivation, motivation!
- Observe which activates that your child is naturally motivated to do.
- Following this motivation, think of some skills which would be compatible with practicing and teaching through these activities which your child enjoys. It may take a bit of thought, but you might be amazed at the scope of language and skills that can be taught through simple activities such as playdough. Pre-planning ahead of time the skills which you want to teach through play ensures that you make the most of every teaching opportunity.
This is your chance to put on your thinking cap and get creative!
Example: Peppa Pig Playset
Does your child love playing with their Peppa pig playset and figures? Then this this is a great opportunity to teach. You could teach….
Request for items or actions that they want
Hold the playset so it just out of reach, they reach for it and say “Open” the box.
Or“Give me” the ___ (Toy, car, horse, bench). “Move” the car. “Tidy up” the toys.
Echoic’s: Used to teach the sound/sign/PEC symbol/word for something which your child wants, but doesn’t know
: “Say …..(P or Pig)” > “Pig” > “Well done” + gives the Pepa pig toy
Hold up an object (i.e. toy car) and say “What is it?”= “Car”
Give your child a Pepa pig character (such as a pig) and ask your child to “Match the pig” to a pig within the playset. Make sure that there is a least one other animal character within the playset so they have the opportunity to learn, not just match it to any old character!
Receptive language, to show that your child can understand and listen to what other people are saying to them.
“Show me the……” “Give me the…” “Point to the…..” >>>> Your child gives or points to the correct object.
You could also add attributes such as “Touch the blue ball” to see if your child can identify different coloured objects within the playset.
Motor imitation skills: teach your child to model actions
“Copy me” as you open the door to the playset house >>>>> your child opens the playset door >>> Fabulous! + access to bubbles/ another preferred item.
“Your turn” holding the Pepa pig car…… then “My turn” >>> “Great taking turns” + hug
Celebrate correct responses!
Ensure that if your child does the correct response, that you give them verbal praise and something else that they really like i.e. bubbles, tickles, a sticker, their teddy bear. This will make it more likely that they will do the same correct response again in the future. In other words, you are reinforcing their correct response. For more info about reinforcement, click here.
Help’ em out when necessary!
If your child does not do the correct response that you wanted to see, don’t just leave them struggling, help them out! Give them a prompt to teach them the correct response. The type of prompt that you use will depend on the type of skill that you are teaching.
- For example, if your teaching motor imitation, then your child might need a physical prompt to teach the skill initially.
- If your teaching matching items, they might need you to gesture or point to the correct item for them to select the correct one.
- Or if you hold up a toy car and ask “What is it?” and your child doesn’t respond, give them a cue which is appropriate for the type of communication system that your child uses. For example if they are verbal, give them a partial verbal prompt by sounding out the first letter of the item (“C”) and then increase the prompt as needed.
But whatever kind of prompt that you need to use, remember to try and fade out the prompts as soon as you can! Otherwise your child might become dependent on your cues and never become independent in the skill.
So what are your thoughts on this method of teaching? How do you teach your child in real-world situations? Let me know what you think!
And if you want more ideas on how to teach your child in their natural environment, then be sure to check out this website too!
Beth is forever curious about what makes people tick. She is a master’s degree graduate and former psychology teacher (AKA a proud behaviour nerd!). Autism awareness is a cause close to her heart – check out her fundraiser. Beth becomes her happiest self when she’s helping people like you to enhance your life.