Big Kids Play Too

This is another one of my “big kid” room setups as I lean heavily this year into trying to continue to practice child-led play-based therapy, even with older children (9-15ish). It’s easier for me to figure out how to offer it for young kids, and it’s harder with the big kids, but it’s what I’m working on this year!

Image description: An empty classroom with limited furniture in it — mainly one desk — with a typewriter and an iPad at the desk; all over the floor are things like a yoga ball, a balance board with a raised maze that you can lean left and right and cause a ball to go through it, a small tunnel to crawl through, a crash pad like a beanbag, etc.

So this is one of the other schools where I work. I’ve shared a couple of the schools that have extensive equipment and an incredible practice space, as well as one that doesn’t have a designated space at all and I have to carry everything in with me. This school is in the middle: I have a designated space and it has some sensorimotor equipment, but not a ton. We have to be creative and work with what we have. (And even this big of a room is more than I often had in the States!)

I had 3 activities in mind (or “on offer”) for this particular big kid. One was dry erase mazes, and tracing through the maze would give you letters that spelled the answer to a “kid joke”. One was my old typewriter. And one was my iPad and stylus with a “make your own animation” game pulled up on it. I love that one because you have to draw the same picture over and over with slight modifications each time to make something animated. A great way to practice fine motor precision and visual-motor skills in a non-threatening way.

ID: the close-up of the tabletop activities, the typewriter and the animation game, which we didn’t end up using. /ID
ID: A close-up of a balance ball with a dry erase maze in front of it.

Instead, they got very interested in the balance board/maze that I have. They spent about ten minutes figuring out how to precisely maneuver their body in order to get the ball through the maze. Then they spent about ten minutes crashed on the crash pad and doodling on a spare piece of paper while we chatted about something that was bothering them. When they got up off the crash pad and wanted to move to some other equipment I showed them a very gentle “exercise” activity on the yoga ball by way of chatting about how drawing while lying on your tummy or while holding yourself up in quadruped position makes your core muscles stronger. Then they spent about ten minutes investigating my dry erase jokes and mazes and declaring just how absolutely terrible the punch lines were (which was true 😉)

I love the way that child-led sessions with older children opens the door for them to feel safe with me about things that are bothering them. Then I can point them to resources or people in the school that can help, if help is needed, or just be a trusted listening ear if that’s what fits best.