Hello. My name is Beth and I am a recovering toy bag addict. I used to pack individual bags of toys for each of the children on my case load and cram them into the trunk of my car daily. The bags were well organized and full of what I considered to be fun ways to build skills during my hour long sessions. Even after research started showing that children learned best using their own materials in their natural settings, I continued to sneak my bag of tricks in the door of unsuspecting families. I hit my bottom one day when a mommy said to her daughter “maybe Beth will have something interesting today”. I did not.
Sound familiar? Maybe a bit on the dramatic side but we are all probably guilty of similar habits. Walking into a family’s home or a daycare setting empty handed feels foreign and uncomfortable to us. However, we all know that the magic is not inside our carefully packed bag of tricks. The real magic is in your knowledge and skill base, clinical experiences, creativity, and passion for helping families and young children.
Research shows that children and families demonstrate better outcomes when they are encouraged to use materials commonly found in their homes and natural settings. With a little coaching and encouragement from us (the ‘experts’) they can then practice those same skills and strategies throughout the day versus during that brief one hour weekly session with us.
So here are some handy tricks to help wean yourself from your bag of tricks. Pick one or two and give it a shot next week as you visit with families. Take a moment to share with others how it went and good luck!
- Fill your toy bag with things you know the family has on hand already
- Take an inventory and gradually decrease the number few items in your bag until you are down to only a couple that you can easily loan to the family until your next visit.
- Walk in with an empty toy bag and have the child and parent join you in filling it with different toys and materials already in their home. Coach the parent on how to use those materials differently across routines.
- Gradually desensitize yourself by leaving the toy bag at the door, outside the front door and eventually in the trunk of your car.
- Pretend that you forgot the toy bag and quickly get busy including yourself in whatever the family was doing when you arrived.