I just spent fifteen minutes on the floor with Hallie and Lea ripping up pieces of paper (that in a former incarnation had stood in as some "Blue's Clues", replete with blue paw prints and all) and dumping them on the kids' heads. I'm pretty sure that you won't read about this sort of activity as a stimulating, engaging learning experience, but it epitomizes what we do when we "embrace the craziness," AKA practice Floortime/DIR.
Lea had been screaming non stop for a quarter of an hour because she's teething like mad. I was holding her on my shoulder while trying to get Hallie to eat something for dinner (tonight's goal: a half a piece of toast with fake butter. She had eaten the ends of a few fries, a lick of mini chocolate bundt cake, and a few veggie puffs designed for the newly-eating baby, but I don't consider that a decent dinner, despite the existence of the word 'veggie' in there. After all, those puffs have 25 calories for 75 of 'em and I can guarantee you that Hallie ate no more than 10).
So toast--the preferred food of the month--it was. But after three mini bites, Hallie put down the toast and got distracted by the TV (TV is our motivator for most things, alas). I paused the highly formulaic Wonder Pets episode and asked her to take another bite. But she moved on, and began to rip up some of the paper we'd used in our Blues Clues playing this morning. Try as I could, I could not get her attention. So what did I do? I took a page out of the Floortime book (so to speak) and began ripping up the paper with her. And then dumping it, confetti style, over the heads of both of the kids. Hallie instantly engaged with me and began dumping paper on my head, and on Lea's, too. She smiled wide, made great eye contact, and got re-engaged with me. And got her to eat three or four more bites of toast. So mini victory for me, and for Stanley Greenspan (the guru of Floortime).
Sometimes it is useful when I take my own advice. A week ago, Hallie's very excellent Special Instructor called me to ask me what I would do to re-engage Hallie when she seems disengaged. All I could think of at the moment was that A. should follow Hallie's lead and not worry about whether Hallie was talking. Step it down a notch, I said. Go back to basic sensory activities when pretend play seems beyond Hallie's reach. This is all the stuff I've learned in Floortime. Our goal is for Hallie to engage at level 6, developmentally and Greenspan-ly speaking. This level is all about complex problem solving. But most of the time, level 6, which is typical of 3-4 year olds, is beyond Hallie's reach. She is most comfortable at levels 3 and 4 and sometimes reaches into level 5. But she gets easily overwhelmed and when she is overwhelmed, we need to step it down a notch. Any engagement is better than no engagement. So whatever cartwheels you have to turn, or whatever confetti you need to transform paper into, to get her engaged is worth it. And it works, it really works.