Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Activity Idea - Tis The Season To Wrap Presents

For families intervening with Relationship Development Intervention or Communicating Partners, finding just right activities to use as background activities for relationship and partner practice is sometimes challenging.

I always seemed to be thinking too big, too difficult. (Sometimes I still struggle with that.)

Sometimes, the just right activity was right under my nose, like gift wrapping in December.

Think about it. You can easily set up two distinct roles. Here's a very basic version: Parent is the wrapper/paper folder. Child is the taper.

For the child who needs practice sharing attention and joining (and honoring limits by staying with the adult while giving up some control to the adult), the parent will probably want to make the process as simple as possible. Measure your wrapping paper against your gifts and cut your pieces ahead of time. Tear off a bunch of short strips of tape and line them up on the edge of a dining room chair or a big book so that the child's job is to lift the tape from that line-up and press it onto the paper you folded. Have your gift tag made ahead of time, so that all that is left to do is affix it with tape to the wrapped gift. Have bows nearby, ready to affix to packages. Put away any unnecessary objects (scissors, pen, extra gift tags, etc). Have your child join you and wrap, using as few words as possible, but using rich, animated non-verbal communication.

Gift-wrapping is an activity that encompasses a really wide variety of non-verbal, foundational, developmental objectives. Gaze shifting. Attention sharing. Coordinating actions. Sharing control. Perspctive taking. I could write a very long list.

Here's an excerpt from my journal from three years ago that illuminates my daughter's ability to assume different roles (don't fret if you're not there yet, you will get there):

She sat across the wrapping paper from me. Sometimes I cut the paper, sometimes she did, sometimes I cut it halfway and handed her the scissors to finish where I had trouble reaching.

She was in charge of the tape, and I kept getting my fingers in her way -- accidently -- and she navigated the challenge. (I wish I had thought to put my fingers in her way...!!! LOL!) Sometimes she missed the seam and had to re-tape--she was so resilient there. We were wrapping by the light of the Christmas tree, and we really didn't have enough light to see what we were doing, and yet she was really competent! We wrapped some oddly shaped gifts, and she co-regulated and coordinated beautifully--I gave her very little direction, even non-verbally. She just jumped in and did whatever supported me as I led. Just beautiful!

We talked briefly about different wrapping paper, that Nana likes birds and one sheet had cardinals on it. Poppa has a golf cart (but does not play golf) and we had one sheet printed with pics of Santa playing golf with a golf cart all lit up in Christmas lights in the background, so we wrapped my dad's present in that paper. We talked about her cousins as we wrapped their presents. She's ask, "Is that my cousin?" She's barely met them at all--she doesn't know them, really, but is trying to place the people we're wrapping for. She is really starting to ask thoughtful, curious questions. I can tell she is connecting dots more often.

A quiet room illuminated by the lights of the CHRISTmas tree, a slow pace, few words and little "talk", lots of "non-verbaling", some gifts, wrapping paper, tape, etc, provide a wonderful background for some practice in relationship development and communicating partners.


Marie said...

Love it! Thanks for the idea!

Beverly said...

What a great memory maker too! I almost got teary picturing you by the tree in a quiet moment with your daughter.

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