28 Apr 5 INTERACTIVE SCREEN ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES
In this time of Covid-19, many families are looking for new playful activities to complete with their young child. Some families are participating in therapy sessions online or engaging with distant family members. Typically, less screen time is encouraged, but we are all in a unique situation right now. Therefore, Playapy is sharing some interactive simple and effective play-based ideas you can use both on and off screen with young children that does not require apps or purchasing new products or equipment.
Children love guessing games and activities that reinforce skills they can achieve easily. Identifying flash cards is a simple way to capture their visual attention quickly and focus on a screen. You can vary play by asking questions related to the cards. For example, if the card is a picture of a cat, you can ask what sound a cat makes or what color can a cat be. If you don’t have any flash cards on hand, you can make simple drawings to see if they can figure out what you created. For older children you can ask them to draw it as well.
Imitating hand poses is an important skill for children to engage in to prepare for more advanced skills like handwriting. You can practice hand exercises in many fun ways by forming simple shapes and objects with your hands including a ball, triangle, a swimming fish, or a quacking duck. You can also practice traditional songs like “Where is Thumpkin?” or “5 Little Candles.” Even simple actions like hiding the thumbs inside the fists to make “meatballs” or practicing thumbs up and down are basic skills that are good to practice if a child is constantly switching hands to draw or grasps a marker using the whole hand.
One of the most fun and easiest exercises for kids to practice on screen is imitating animals. You can demonstrate yourself or see what they come up with on their own. There are many examples of animals from which to choose. You can review Playapy’s list of animals starting with letters A to K by watching this video. Once you have practiced the animal a few times, you can incorporate this into an activity where they have to obtain objects from across the room and bring it to the screen. Therefore, the child may hop like a kangaroo to grab one car at a time and park it in front of the computer creating a car show. You can even use this technique to form a simple puzzle placing the pieces on one end of the room and assembling close to the screen.
Children love to show off their favorite toys. Why not have them play by practicing their public speaking and presentation skills. Ask your child to pick out a toy and present it the person on screen or in the room. Then the person on the other side of the screen or even in the room can ask questions about it. This is a simple way to start or end screen time with a child or can be used as a way to bring back their focus if they are losing interest with interacting online.
Just like imitating animals, children enjoy moving their bodies in new and interesting ways. Many yoga poses are often given animal names, but even poses named after inanimate objects can be fun for them. You can use flash cards or drawings or just strike a pose yourself to give them a visual of what they should do. This is a great activity to improve coordination, body awareness, self-regulation and more. Imagine the fun of making your body into a “table” and having a pretend meal on top or making your body into a “tunnel” and underneath moving through cars traveling during rush hour. There are many ways to challenge and entertain a child on screen by practicing these types of activities as long as you use your imagination and make it interactive. You can make screen time with family more meaningful and engaging by injecting your personality into play. This is a more valuable and memorable for a child and creates a lasting boding opportunity while improving developmental skills. For more suggestions for indoor play, check out previous posts and subscribe to the Playapy YouTube channel for upcoming videos. I hope you find these tips helpful. Have a playful day!
Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L
Amy Baez is the Founder of Playapy and Creator of the PALS Handwriting Program. She is a pediatric occupational therapist, speaker, and parent coach with 20 years of experience. Learn more at www.amybaez.com.