Age Appropriate Activities and Reinforcers

We have all been there.  We slip in that Barney video so we can catch our breath and give our students a much needed sensory break.  But have you wondered if there are other things you could try?  Is that Barney video really the best we can do?

So why is it important that we try to choose age appropriate materials for our students?

1. Save it for home

We should try to save those Barney videos for home.  I have a son who is 22 with significant disabilities, and he spends much of his time at home on his iPad watching Sesame Street videos.  When he was in school, he could not wait to get home and watch them, because he was not allowed to watch them while at school.  I was so thankful.  It made my life a lot easier at home. 

Plus, thanks to his teachers, I learned that he also liked some more age appropriate things like music videos and Scooby Doo.  (I know, still a bit of a stretch, but much better than Elmo and Big Bird.)  So, if we can leave the toys and young viewing material at home, it will make it easier on the parents, and we may uncover some new interests as well.

2. Be patient

Be patient. This does not happen over night.  Our students are often VERY attached to their reinforcers.  If you are lucky enough, you can start right from the beginning not having those as part of the school environment.  But, if this is a change you are looking to make after letting it slide for a few years, then realize it will take some planning and gradual fading away of those beloved favorites.  You can always start with an alternating system.  They choose, then you choose.  Or, you can set a timer for when it is time to switch.  However you plan to eliminate those reinforcers and activities that you feel are no longer appropriate, give yourself at least 4-6 weeks to see substantial progress. 

Don’t know where to start? I have put together a list of reinforcers categorized by age. It is a great tool to refer to when you have no idea what to try next.

Download it by clicking the button below.

3. Start early

Start early!!  If you teach in an elementary setting, think about starting to fade some of those preschool toys and activities by the time your students are entering third grade.  Many of us have classrooms with a large span of ages, so this is not always easy.  But, with careful planning and clear visual boundaries, you can start moving your older students away from those preschool favorites and start replacing them with more age appropriate choices.  Boy, will your middle and high school teachers thank you!!

So, what can you do right now?

Download the list below that has over 100 different ideas you can use for reinforcement in your classroom.   

Remember, why should we use age appropriate activities and reinforcers?

  1. It makes the less appropriate ones more powerful at home, which parents will thank you for.  Plus, you may find totally new things that excite your students.
  2. It will take some time and planning, so start early.
  3. If you teach in elementary school, start about grade 3.  That way when  your students get to middle and high school they will already have some more appropriate activities they enjoy during their down time.

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