Some kids with learning and thinking differences may have trouble with playground
social rules and equipment. Here are common playground problems and how to help your child avoid them.
Being Bullied or Witnessing Bullying
Kids with learning and thinking differences can be the target of
bullying. Bullying is
different from teasing in that it’s repeated and often escalates over time. It can include name-calling, insults, threats, exclusion and even physical violence.
Kids with learning and thinking differences sometimes lack impulse control and have trouble filtering what they say. They may push or shove other kids, run without paying attention or be unknowingly insulting. It’s also possible they don’t realize when they’re being too forceful.
How to help: Set ground rules for physical aggression, so that your child
knows the consequences ahead of time. Encourage her to use words instead of her body to communicate. Remind your child that getting hit or shoved hurts: “It’s not appropriate to hit other kids. If you want a turn, ask, ‘Can I have a turn please?’”
How to help: Point out that if your child makes other kids feel bad, they aren’t going to want to play with her anymore. Remind your child that playground games are just games and that it’s OK to feel good about winning, but not to make others feel bad. Teach phrases that show good sportsmanship, such as “Good game!”
Not Being Able to Handle the Equipment
Kids with motor skills issues, like
, may have a hard time using playground equipment. Climbing ladders, using the monkey bars, swinging and even sliding require being able to coordinate many different body movements.
On the playground, kids have to share, take turns and communicate with others. Whether they’re playing an organized game or waiting their turn, this can be hard for kids with learning and thinking differences. That’s because paying attention, understanding
social cues and processing information can be trouble spots.
How to help: Model taking turns and sharing. Practice the language your child needs to know, such as “my turn,” “your turn” or even “listen to me!” Let your child know it’s OK to ask a peer or teacher to clarify and break rules down into steps. Explore other
ways to help your child interpret social cues.
Not Wanting to Play With Other Kids
Playground time involves
social skills. This includes sharing, taking turns and joining conversations. Your child may not be sure how to start a conversation or how to ask to join a game. She may not understand when other kids are inviting her to play. This can make it hard to develop friendships.
How to help: Practice what your child can say to other kids. “Hi, I’m Tiffany. What’s your name?” and “Do you want to play on the monkey bars with me?” You can also help your child figure out when it’s OK to join a large playground game without specifically asking. Get more tips on how to
help your child fit in and interact with peers.
Taking Risks on Playground Equipment
Kids with learning and thinking differences can have
trouble with impulse control and may act before they think. And kids with
may not feel pain as strongly as other kids. This can result in risky behavior like jumping from too high, swinging too hard or roughhousing too much with other kids. (Read more about
how sensory issues can impact motor skills.)
How to help: Talk to your child about taking a breath and thinking before she acts. To lower the risk of getting hurt during falls, visit playgrounds that have sand, wood chips or synthetic turf and make sure your child is supervised.
The playground is a ripe teasing ground. Some of it is good-natured joking around: “Whoa, you’re super-fast with those new shoes.” And some of it is just mean: “Those new shoes are really ugly!” Kids with learning and thinking differences can have a hard time telling the difference between the two.
How to help: Explain the difference between teasing and friendly joking. Show your child the
tone of voice and
facial expressions that go with each. You can also help your child practice things to say when she is teased. For example, “I didn’t like that,” or “That hurt my feelings.”