Attention Worksheet #2

Structured Play

The goal of this activity is to have fun and help your child play a little longer with toys. Playing with toys is one of the major ways young children learn. Some children are so easily distracted they never stay with one activity for very long and can miss out on many learning experiences.

  1. Find a quiet room or corner of a room that can be set up for play.
  2. Place a mat, blanket, or scatter rug in this corner.  This serves the purpose of marking a play space.
  3. Gather a few toys that will attract your child’s attention.  Suggestions of things you can use are: blocks, kitchen measuring spoons, toy cars, plastic containers and something to put in them, keys, puzzles or dolls.  If possible these toys should be designated for use only in this area.
  4. Take your child to this area and sit down on the floor with your child facing the wall. (Facing the wall can help cut down the distractions for your child’s attention).
  5. If your child starts to play, just go along and join in.  If the child stands there looking at you, begin to play with the toys.  If the child leaves, stay for one minute playing and see if the child comes back. If the child does not come back try again later, or tomorrow.
  6. If your child joins in the play do what your child is doing.  There is no right or wrong way to play.  As adults we are used to telling the child what to do.  During this playtime, the child gets to be the leader.  You may add to what your child is doing, but you should not try to control the play (unless of course it becomes unsafe).  For example, if your child is pushing a car back and forth, you might run your car around a toy, put other toys in your car, drive it to another spot and take everything out, or anything else you can think to do.  Hopefully your child will join in this extension of the play, however, he may not.  What is important is giving your child a new idea about what can be done with the toys.  You are both having a nice time, and your child has just stayed with an activity a little longer.
  7. Do not have too many toys out at any one time.  Have a bucket or box to put the toys into when you are finished.  Keep this area uncluttered and restful.  If you and your child enjoy music, play soothing music during these sessions.  Do not play music that will increase the child’s activity level.
  8. In time, your child may seek out this area by himself.  Try using this quiet play area a few minutes each day.  A parent of a child followed in our clinic once told us she would find her child in the closet playing.  This very busy child had found her own way to block out stimuli so she could focus to play.

For more information and guidance on "Floor Time" look at First Feelings – Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child, Greenspan, S.I., Greenspan Thorndike,N., Penguin Books, 1985.

The Growth of the Mind, Greenspan,S.I.,M.D. with Benderly Lieff, B., A Merloyd Lawrence Book Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., Inc, Reading MA.