Tools of the Trade: Make It a Game - Life.Church Leaders

Tools of the Trade: Make It a Game

Hey Buddies! My name is Addison, and I’m a high school senior who also happens to have a sister with special needs. I’ve learned a lot from working with her. It’s helped me work at my church to help other kiddos with different needs to feel comfortable in the church environment. I’d love to talk to you about one of the most fun tools you’ll ever use from your Buddy toolbox: Play! Yes, play itself can become a wonderful way to manage behaviors that are becoming challenging—and to keep a child feeling calm, loved, and regulated.

A few weeks ago, I was a Buddy in a Konnect room and my special LifeKid would not stop sprinting from wall to wall. I had tried everything I could think of. Speaking calmly did nothing. He was so fast, I couldn’t get close enough him to try using physical touch to help soothe him. I couldn’t get any sensory toys close to him unless I resorted to throwing them at him. So what did I do? I made up a game.

While he continued running, I told him “I bet you can’t sit down before I catch you!” Immediately he grinned. He kept running, but anytime I tried to get close to him, he popped a squat on the floor. Eventually, he just decided not to stand back up because he realized sitting down was exactly how he could win the game! After we played this game for a few minutes, we didn’t have problems for the rest of the service.

Playing games with your special LifeKid can show them you’re truly their Buddy, not just someone assigned to “keep an eye on them.”

Games can be a powerful tool to have in your toolbox. They show the child that you’re not there to be a prison warden, but more of a friend. They show the child you care about the things they care about (having fun). Games are a special, shared experience unique to friends. If your special kiddo seems unsure about you, they’ll know you’re their true buddy after you’ve played and smiled together.

But, sometimes it can be difficult to discern when to use a game to channel a difficult or challenging behavior into something more appropriate for LifeKids. There’s no perfect time to use the game method. Sometimes it’s best to start with fun, game-like interactions soon after you’ve met a new child who needs you to be their Buddy. Other times, it’s exactly what’s needed when nothing else seems to be working! Really as long as the child is not screaming or crying, you have a good chance of distracting them with a game.

Here are some fun games to try next time you need a positive connection with your special LifeKid.

Your ability to use games to connect with and redirect your special LifeKid is only limited to your own imagination. It’s a very simple tool, but a powerful one. Remember, our job as a Buddy is to make the child feel as comfortable as possible and demonstrate what God’s love for them looks like, no matter what they’re dealing with. If you’re ever feeling stumped, go to God and ask for wisdom and fresh ideas. You can do this!