Below are tips related to specific areas that have been helpful for us...
Are you ready?
Books and reading
At 3.5-4.0 years Our "breakthru" book was the three little pigs, we had a very old popup edition from grandreams that I had bought coincidentally with a large group of books on ebay. Anyway, as I read this book I used character voices and say "and I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down " very dramatically AND then I blew in my son's face and then I pretended that he had knocked me over with his feet (he was sitting in an arm chair and I was sitting in the floor on my knees facing him reading.) Soon he decided to really push me with his feet after I "blew the house down" and he wanted to pretend to know the wolf all the way to the floor. So this was a key point where he became really involved physically in the story. After a few months, his SLP asked me to try to get him to re-enact a favorite story, to enlist the help of family members, to have everyone wear a nametag of our character. He hated the nametags and wouldn't let any of us wear them. And he was quite unhappy about the re-enacting idea. But I asked my older son and his friend to re-enact it anyway just with me as my son looked on. After one one time, suddenly my son wanted to re-enact the three little pigs, Still without deviating from the story...this was the start of some big gains in his language. You can learn more about what books motivated him to WANT (to initiate) re-enacting stories here http://www.helpingdelayedkids.com/links.htm#Books_kids
Another tip: I would read the book, but I would pretend to read the wrong page or the wrong sentence. Since he had a strong auditory memory he knew that I was skipping a part, and then I would give him a choice "do you want me to read this part of this part" ...sometimes one of the parts I offered to "read" was a picture...if he selected it I would say "oh, there are any letters here" (later we graduated to "there aren't any words/sentences here"...etc.
See also http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/Floortime/message/3387 switching the covers of a book, seal the book with elastic/string/tape, hide a books make a treasure hunt, etc
I don’t want to. It’s not fair. It’s my turn to choose. Umf, I don’t want to stay here, I want to go to the fair. Wahhh, I hurt my toe, help help. No, I can’t go over there because my toe still hurts. I am busy with work now, I’ll be there in 10 minutes.
In other words, during our play as his confidence has grown, I am pushing back more and more.
Someone once counseled that during floortime, “be the playmate you want your child to play with” ….And this strategy is working for us…last weekend a special needs friend (who was 5.0 and ready to be mainstreamed in September with no aide) came to play with my son who was 4.5. And for the first time they played happily together for over 2 hours. Sure it was some interaction, some parallel play. But they were always on the same page, doing the same activity, enjoining each other, chasing, laughing, coaxing.
When my son was 2.0 we’ve enjoyed a great family friend with a very smart, bossy, same-age, and verbal typical girl. Over time, she became a wonderful playmate to my son. Her natural inclination to take the lead has provided the perfect amount of playful obstruction, especially since he turned about 3. (side note, tbhis worked well also because he was seeing her at least 2x a week, without the frequent contact they have since drifted apart and no longer enjoy playing together).
So what I’m trying to say is that IMHO, at the beginning, Floortime/DIR gives the child a lot of lead, but over time following his lead begins to look more like making sure that the topic is motivating and interesting to him and nurturing that he has plenty of opportunities to initiate, plan, and come up with ideas, etc.
And yes, when I am just being Mom, I am the boss, and he still has to wash his hands, etc
He says " he puffed away said Thomas" I reply "Wait, before you puff away, can I have a ride?"
He says: "I want the red one." I reply: "Oh, you want the big fat red one."
Him: "He went into the tunnel said Toby." Me: "Oh the tunnel, let's go!"
This is working out very well...I am seeing less scripting during our play and much higher quality interaction, creative thinking.
How much, how often?
Symbolic play floortime is 1.5 - 2 hours a day, with me. Breaks include obstacle courses and short OT/sensory diet/execises.
Incidental floortime, where we are making cupcakes together, bathtime, reading, etc is another 1-2 hours a day, often more. That's where we stretch out circles during daily living experiences, working on sequencing and why questions too.
Sensory floortime is .5 to 1 hour a day at least. That's more like silly roughhousing kind of play and chase games, especially with dad or his brother.
Numbers and letters
Getting ready: gather or make some additional number/letter toys - numbers/letters written on cards (ie with or without example pictures) or on puzzle pieces (here is the one that really helped us with circles in a similar stage http://www.areyougame.com/Interact/Alphabet_Floor_Puzzle__iMP10207.html - it's by masterPieces). Gather some additional crayons (different colors, types) and things to write on (different colors of paper, sizes, spiral notebooks, paper on a clipboard whatever)....Maybe some magnet letters for the refrigerator or a magnet board...you just what to have a couple of choices of number/letter related activities...but you don't need to buy out the store :-)
Then, I would set out 2 new number/letter toys attractively in the room where you play the most often...Maybe he will be attracted to these and that will start you on a new activities...like with the abc puzzle above I would just set out groups of letters at first and we talk about which letter came next (after he knew and loved the alphabet song)...and then he would pick a letter (ie A) and place it in the line (this alphabet puzzle is just one long puzzle). and then I'd say it's my turn...if he protested a lot I'd say...ok you can have another turn. If you couldn't remember the next letter then we'd sing the part of the alphbet song leading up...and we'd talk about the pictures on the puzzle pieces and at some point he decided to hide the piece that we needed next and I would pretend like it was my turn and I could'nt find it...and then we'd look everywhere and eventually find it..and I'd say "who played this silly joke? (hid the letter)"....also after the whole puzze was made I'd coax him to go get his dad to "come see my work"...and dad would be very impressed and ask silly questions, etc. .it's hard to explain...but this evolved into a fun activity where we closed many new circles.
Or, after he brings you the magnadoodle and asks you to draw, then pretend to press o to draw, but don't press hard enough, Oh...it's not working...have the crayons and paper near...see if you can coax him to want you to draw on paper. ...then, after he's happy w/ drawing on ppaer...lead up w/ more choices...should I draw on the white paper of the green paper...which the big crayon or the little crayon.
Maybe get the book "chicka chicka boom boom" and then introduce him to the way that the letters can be characters then take letters (ie magnet letters) and draw a tree and tape it to the refrigerator or magnet board and see if he will join you in play where the letters climb the tree (like the book).
draw letters/numbers outside on the fence or sidewalk with chalk...jump on the one you just drew - oh no, i am stuck help me off - then hold out your hand...laugh...see if he will playfully help you move...
Another number related activity: For a sensory path/obstacle course in the yard... we lined up some bricks in the dirt in our side yard. And I wrote numbers on the bricks with markers (permanent)...because he likes to count. We sometimes play at taking turns walking across the bricks...there are about 30. They are spaced several inches apart and placed end to end. In some places there are 2 in parallel, so the path is wider. On the narrow parts of the path he walks one foot on a brick, one foot off. This is good for him too.
Visiting a semi-busy park playground at the same time each week. Then you can get to know the regular parents and kids. The playground visit itself becomes like a playdate overtime. Bring a park bag full of fun social toys and snacks! You and your child may become popular quickly! Then, anytime (ie may only be 1x a month) your child seems to really build a rapport with another child at the park, invite them over.
School mates, especially typical kids...or kids that are mostly "graduated" from special ed are best in my experience, because as a parent I find it challenging enough to mediate with one special needs child involved!
Children of family friends. Neighbors.
See also controllingness
And you can order a book all about the FEAS here http://icdl.com/icdlpubs.htm
At the same site you can order the ABLC which can help with measuring progress and also gives you guidance on how often to re-eval per the matrices http://icdl.com/icdlpubs.htm
But my best advice is to work with a floortime consultant, even if it’s just every 2 months that you mail them a video tape and then a phone consult, the consultant (ideally a Sr DIR clinician, which you can find with tips here http://www.floortime.org/therapist.htm ). I have found that with a consultant’s guidance I am always certain of the progress he is making and I am filled to the brim with great ideas to work on for about 2 months.
Pretend Play (early pretend play)
I buy hats that represent any characters that he is interested in, ie robin hood, bob the builder etc. Also, Talbots in San Mateo sells foam swords that are terrific for both early pretend play and social interaction....I found the robin hood hat at <www.purcifuls-toys.com> ...Talbots also has some good standard (ie firefighter etc) pretend hats
We have a cool book with really cute matching characters called " Fairy Tale World, Goldilocks and the Three Bears" <http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/156010564X/>
The story of the 3 little pigs is a great one to act out. As we read it I would say "huff and puff and BLOW your house down" and I would blow and then fall over backwards and we would laugh. He still loves to read this and brings this idea into other play.
Pretend food is also great...buy some that looks like your children's favorite foods. Talbots has some really fun stuff.... pretend cake, pizza, all kinds of fruit, etc.
And we have a big mouth puppet from <www.lakeshorelearning.com> that my son loves (but I have to manipulate) ...we have fun play where he feeds Tommy various foods And some things Tommy doesn't want so he says "bleah" etc...
If you read Three Billy Goats Gruff, then later on the play structure at the park you can pretend like you are a troll and the bridge is the one in the story.
Simple story lines are the easiest to start with. I remember well how much he wanted to act out thomas stories with his trains...but Thomas has so many complex stories I had a hard time helping him with those stories.
Scripted train play
Setup (the play space)
Transition (child initiated)
What is Floortime >