5 games and activities to practice Observe and Describe
Practicing new behavioral skills isn’t only for children. When encouraging change in children, parents are also learning and adjusting their parenting techniques. Anytime a new skill is learned it should be practiced before a situation occurs so you can respond appropriately when emotions are high. This is especially true when using the skill of Observe and Describe because observing and describing your children’s behavior can be difficult to do without including extra dialogue or labels. Get the whole family involved in helping you learn the new skill. When your children see that you’re willing to role-play new skills, they will be a lot more willing to practice too.
1. Different objects in a bag
Ask your spouse, significant other, children, or a friend to place different objects in a non-transparent bag. It could be food such as fruit or candy, or it could be various objects from inside or outside the house. Ask them to find objects that are dissimilar in texture, form, size, weight, etc. Then place your hand in the bag and pick out one of the objects. Using all 5 senses, practice describing the object you are holding. After you’re finished ask the other people present if they observed anything else or if they perceived something you described differently.
2. Watch your children play
Have your child/children choose an activity or game they want to play and practice using all three steps of Observe and Describe. At first it may be helpful to write down how you would say the steps to ensure you are using the steps correctly. However, over time try observing the behavior in your mind, then get your child’s attention and describe what you observed out loud.
3. Watch a familiar movie/TV episode
If know one is around to help you practice the skill, or you’d prefer to start practicing by yourself, choose a movie or TV episode that you are familiar with. Familiarity with the movie or episode gives you context of the situation, background of the characters, and allows you to focus on using the skill rather than paying attention to the plot. Choose one character to Observe and Describe and then after a scene where they are present pause the TV and use all steps of the skill to describe the character’s actions.
4. Play charades
Charades is a fun game where one actor chooses a word or phrase to act out, without using words, and the other members of the team have to guess the word or phrase. Use the steps of Observe and Describe with the actor before guessing what the word or phrase is. Since the actor is not allowed to use words, it is perfect to refine your observation and description skills because you are fully focused on their actions.
When in a difficult situation with children it can be difficult to ignore some of the disrespectful comments they might say, but describing what they are doing helps keep the situation calm. This game helps practice focusing on describing what some is physically doing.
5. Communication Blocks
This game is normally used to practice Effective Communication but it is just as helpful for Observe and Describe. Two people sit down facing opposite directions with an identical set of blocks. One person (in this case, the person practicing observing and describing) builds something with their set of blocks. When they are finished with their structure they describe what they built to the other person, trying to make their structures identical. When they are finished they step aside from what they built and compare and contrast the structures. Because everyone describes and understands differently it can take several times to make identical structures. If you don’t have two sets of blocks, you can do the exact same process with drawing. One person draws a scene on a piece of paper and then describes what they drew to the other person.
This game also highlights how different everyone communicates. We may observe a behavior and think we know the reason behind a behavior, but our perception could be very different than what our child is actually thinking. If we stay calm and use the steps of Observe and Describe then it gives our children a chance to explain what they were feeling and why the may have behaved in that manner.