“It’s my Play Square.”

Athena recently started early intervention (for behavioral concerns) through a referral by her pediatrician.  Once a week, a professional comes to our home and works on goals set specifically for Athena.

The backstory:

For those that have been around Athena, know that she has been attached to my hip since birth.  At age 2, her constant need to be held (by me and only ME) and the center of MY attention has made it very challenging for me to get chores done around the house, or even spend one-on-one time with Apollo; which isn’t fair to Apollo.  It wouldn’t be so challenging if she was content being with me when basic household chores are completed, enjoyed spending time with Apollo and I, or even allowed anyone else to hold her, but she doesn’t.  To make matters even more challenging, Athena’s dysregulation typically causes Apollo to become dysregulated, so I typically have two dysregulated kids at once.

New play concept:

“Play Square” – or a colored blanket placed on the floor in which the children play. This concept was introduced to us by Athena’s early interventionist to help her learn play boundaries, and learn how to play/entertain herself for minutes at at time.

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Making it work for BOTH kids:

When we introduced the Play Square concept to Athena, we also introduced it to Apollo; surprisingly, both children took to this concept quicker than I expected. Apollo and Athena each got to choose their own Play Square (blanket) and fill it with some of their favorite toys/activities. To make the idea more exciting, the kids and I even went to the store and picked-out some toys/activities that they only get when playing on their Play Squares. Pipe cleaners and a plastic colander? Plastic containers (with a hole cut in the center) and cotton balls? Cars? Paw Patrol figures? Sensory toys? They love it!

In a perfect world, the kids would arrive at their Play Squares with their toys neatly organized and set-up for them to play with; my world is not always perfect. In reality, I’m usually setting up their Play Squares as they are playing on them, already. Thankfully, the kids are usually so focused on their toys/activities that they don’t seem to mind too much; whatever works for them works for me, right? Right!

Baby steps:

The Play Square creates visual play boundaries and a safe play space; a sacred space for each child to call their own. To prevent boredom, I try and keep enough toys near the area so the kids can trade-out toys as needed, but only allow a limited number of toys on the Play Square at a time; clutter usually leads to overstimulation.  While the children are allowed to verbally interact with each other during this time, their Play Squares are not to touch, and they are not allowed to invade each-other’s Play Squares.  Someday the kids will learn to play together in a civil manner, but that is not our primary focus at this time. Baby steps!

It works!

I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me the first time I experienced this new play concept, but it works (for now at least)! Apollo and Athena actually respect each other’s Play Squares more than I ever thought they would, and through this process fight a lot less during play.

Anyone else use designated play spaces for their children? I’d love to hear your success stories or see pictures of your play spaces!

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