IDEA mandates that services are provided in a child’s natural environment, but natural environment services are about more than the location in which an intervention session takes place. They are also about what happens during the session and what materials are used. Best practice recommendations suggest that providers should use toys and materials already available in the child’s home or child care center or other environment that the child regularly attends. Using the materials found in that environment increases the likelihood that they will be able to “practice” activities and increases carryover of skills. Listed below are some tips for providers to decrease the use of toy bags during early intervention sessions. What other suggestions have you tried?
- The essential factor that will help us learn to rely less on our toys and more on “found materials” is knowing the properties of the toys that we use and why we are using them. During EI visits we should be using toys for a specific reason, rarely to entertain. Part of our planning with families should take that into consideration. If we plan out what we are doing and why we will increase the likelihood that “found objects” will emerge as just what we need.
- Pick one family you are working with who you feel comfortable with not using a toy bag. Perhaps you’ve started to notice there’s one family you see that seems to have everything and you’ve already been using your toy bag less.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you are looking for a particular property of a toy or object or material ask. Many times families already have something that would work for the task you are trying to create. The key is knowing the property.
- Bring an empty bag. Have the child pick out toys from his own closet to fill the bag and use for the session. You may just find out what really interests the child.
- When you find yourself reaching for a toy from the bag, make it a point to help the family problem solve what they have at home that can also be used for the activity after you leave. This way the family won’t feel like they can’t work on things when you’re not around or like they have to go buy all the same toys you bring.
- Start with the next new family that is referred to you. Old habits die hard and changing things in the middle of the game can be difficult. However, if you never bring a toy bag in, there’s no need to decrease use of it!
— Jamie Holloway
For more information and ideas, visit http://tactics.fsu.edu/pdf/HandoutPDFs/TaCTICSHandouts/Module2/10step.pdf.