Go on, Get Stuck in – 12 Messy Play ideas

Messy play is a right good laugh.

It can serve many functions, whether it be a good pairing activity, a reinforcer, a good manding session, desensitising learners to textures, encouraging them to eat, and even incorporating goals through NET. It can all be done, and I for one, thoroughly enjoy getting a bit messy. 

Pinterest is awesome for checking out some good ideas. I’ve got a cheeky little ABA board you can check out here for some ideas, amongst other things. 

More often than not, you’ll have things that are lurking in the back of your cupboard that can be used. My favourite activity is so simple, and consists of 2 ingredients; 1 cup cornflour and half cup soap (or shower gel, shampoo etc). Mix them together, and boom, you’ve some lovely putty/dough style substance, which smells lovely!

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Here are other some ideas;

  • Oats
  • Water and cornflour
  • Rice
  • Pasta (cooked or uncooked, and you can use gluten free) 
  • Crazy Soap
  • Paint
  • Sand
  • Water play
  • Jelly
  • Ice
  • Foil
  • Water beads

 

Combining a bunch of these can go to next level sorts of fun.

Before I finish up, here’s a couple of ideas on how you can teach some different goals within messy play. 

  • Mands – teach hands for all resources you use, and actions for them (e.g. water, soap, pour)
  • Tact – labelling different items and actions within the activity (e.g. water, soap, pouring)
  • Imitation – imitate actions within messy play (e.g. imitate sprinkling rice, pouring water, sliding ice)
  • Visual – match different items within messy play (e.g. match red cup to red cup)
  • Listener Responding – ask the learners to carry out actions/find objects within messy play (e.g. can you splash? Pour the water, find the cup)
  • Independent play – increase duration of independent play activities 
  • Intraverbal – whilst playing, saying and filling in different actions (e.g. you splash the ….water)

You can do all of this, whilst having a really good time. So go on, get stuck in.

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NET – Where Learning Should be Super Fun

Hey! Apologies for the long silence. As many people reading this may know, September is a mad month! I should be back in the game now.

A large part of most programmes should consist of natural environment teaching (NET). This refers to teaching in typically occurring daily events; basically learning away from the table/clinical setting. For younger learners, this could be through play, for older learners, it could be out in the community.

It’s a good idea to choose (where possible) motivating topics to embed your teaching. This way learning is fun! Make a list of all of your current targets, next to a list of your learners’ favourite topics/games, and see how you can relevantly incorporate the different targets among them. For older learners, targets may lend themselves to a more functionally oriented programme (as opposed to a developmentally sequenced set of targets), so it’s a good idea to set your targets based on the common environments the learner accesses (e.g. setting goals across all of the verbal operants based on going to the shop, local swimming pool, train station etc). A good way to plan all of this is to create a NET lesson plan for yourself. Be sure to include easy tasks also, as we should always strive to follow the teaching procedures outlined in my previous blog.

Here’s an example NET lesson plan for a younger learner (sheet derived from Carbone Clinic)

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The best thing about NET is that you can make it so fun that the learner doesn’t even see it as ‘learning’ (in the boring sense of the word). A big part of ABA is programming responses for generalisation, and NET is a great opportunity for this. Lesley Love, the teacher/BCaBA who hired me originally at Treetops, always said that every part of the day was a teachable moment, not just the time spent in the classroom, and challenged us to take advantage of every moment. This has always stayed with me. It’s also a good opportunity to model lots of appropriate skills, such as play skills/functional skills, and to constantly model appropriate vocal behaviour (you should always be talking, I never shut up!).

It’s been my experience so far that therapists (myself included when I first started!) find table work easier, because it’s structured. It can be more challenging to teach in the natural environment, but we must strive to, it’s really important. I found the best way to get better at NET was planning. The NET lesson plan is a gift, organisation and preparation is key. Saying this, the therapist also needs to be flexible enough to adapt to unplanned for teaching opportunities.

Another point to make is that the child’s VR (schedule of reinforcement (how many responses are required before something good for the learner happens)) can often get overlooked, and as a result more problem behaviour can occur during NET, so be mindful of this.

Plan well, have fun, and use every moment. Get yourself in the natural environment and have a right nice time.