Building Joint Activity Routines and Imitation skills

Building a joint activity routine (JAR) starts with finding an engaging activity that can be done together with your child.  Once the activity is presented, the opportunity for engagement begins! You and your child can take turns, join together in the activity, share materials, look at each other, move items back and forth, communicate about what you are doing and build on each other’s ideas. You become true play partners with our child.  There are two types of joint activity routines: Object-focused and sensory social routines.

Setting up object-focused joint activity routines can be done in several ways: giving a choice of materials, having your child point to the box that he/she wants, opening a lid together, getting all the pieces out, etc. There are a lot of opportunities for receptive and expressive language during these routines. Another way to expand the routine includes matching activities, actions on objects or imitations as we set up play. The child is having a hands-on learning experience while the adult is also participating in the activity.

Another type of joint activity routine is a sensory social routine.  These are routines in which the objects are not very important, but the exchange between the two people is the focus.  Sensory social routines are routines in which people are face to face. Your child is giving you a lot of eye contact and facial expression, shared smiles, laughter, pleasure, reaching out to make things happen. Songs, bubbles, and peek-a-boo are some great examples.

Young children who have difficulty engaging often show higher interest and motor responses when adults imitate them. They are learning to build relationships with adults as play partners and we can support that relationship through imitating their positive actions and using positive affect and language.  The motivation to continue an interaction encourages these imitation exchanges as well as presenting more opportunities for engagement and relationship-building.

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