Anyway, I brought in a game today designed for James. He has been playing Candy land somewhat repetitiously with me lately , so it was designed around this motivation Also, when asked a question in which he needs to state his opinion he typically says something like "everything", or "nothing" or "I don't know", so I wanted to give him some practice stating his opinion.
I had printed off pictures of Candy Land characters from Google Images. I taped them to a wall and put an animal balloon around them like a licorice rope. I then had a cowboy hat and a tape mustache and I myself was "Lord Licorice." I had captured all of the CandyLand Characters and put them under a secret spell and would only let them go when James answered a "secret" question.
Well, James promptly removed my "licorice rope", wrapped it around his foot and started talking about his latest obsession Viki - a mouse from Angelina Ballerina that he saw once and whom he would really like to live with him, despite the fact that she is a cartoon character who does not exist outside of the movies. Following James lead, I too started lamenting about Viki not being with us. She probably could help these Candy Land characters if she were here. (this technique is incorporating a child's motivation into the current game) I wrapped some tape around my foot and we talked about how we wished the "real Viki" was with us even though we knew that could probably not happen. James does not appreciate when we try to pretend to be Viki or make games with her not there (which is normally a technique I would try when a child likes characters). I tried putting tape across the characters for more licorice rope, but James just kept removing it. I did a dance of going with James motivation and talking about Viki and then trying to bring him back to my game. I laughed aloud like Lord Licorice might and said "even Viki would not be powerful enough to break the spell on these characters." Again, I tried putting up more tape, and James kept taking it down. Playfully I said "Hey if you keep taking my licorice rope I am going to tie YOU up". James reached out and grabbed the tape again, with a grin and a mischevious gleam in his eye, and I knew I had him.
James is a very physical guy who loves rough and tumble, but I always make sure to give him control and he knows if he says "stop," I will. I tackled James and tickled him while I wrapped his legs in masking tape. He laughed and laughed as he easily broke through my "licorice rope". I taped him up again all while pretending I was Lord Licorice and he was "foiling my plans". Once I knew James was really motivated - he was giggling up a storm, I introduced my challenge again. I knew that James liked breaking through the tape, so I told him that I was going to ask him questions and if he didn't say either "Lord Licroce" or "Candy Land" as the answer I would tie him up again. I asked him "what is your favorite toy to play with your brother?", when he replied "Lincoln Logs", I celebrated him (because this is something he normally does not do), and then Lord Licorice acted "angry" and tied him up again because he didn't say "Candy Land". James LOVED it! Over and over again he answered questions with his own opinon to see Lord Licorice get worked up and to break free from the tape.
So, there are several lessons to be learned here. First of all, kids love big reactions, so getting angry and worked up over something they did, may just be exciting for them and encourage them to do it again. So save the big reactions for the playroom and when celebrating. 2 - When my initial game didn't work out, I didn't push it on James or give up. Instead I went with James biggest current motivation and found a way for the game to work for him. 3 - I waited until he was really motivated until I worked on his challenges 4 - Once he was really motivated it wasn't very challenging for him to work on his "challenges"
Play is so powerful for all of us, and specific games can be really helpful in working on challenges. However we must also be flexible and willing to try new paths to connect, because often times the most powerful games arise in the moment, when we are most in tune with our child.