What is Floortime?

Floortime is the name of the therapeutic part of the DIR framework. At Play for Real we love Floortime as it supports a child’s development in a way that is playful, joyful and respectful. Children love coming to therapy and don’t even realize that they’re working! By understanding a child’s individual profile and developmental capacities we can build and carry out a Floortime program specific to each particular child. It is definitely not “one size fits all”! 

Floortime is an evidence based approach and is used by a wide range of professionals throughout the world. If you’d like to know more about one of the research studies you can check out this video:


Yes, but what is Floortime?

Floortime doesn’t actually have to take place on the floor, it’s really about connecting with your child wherever they are and whatever they’re doing. It has a number of guiding principles, so let’s look at some of these to better understand what it’s about. In this post we’ll start with one of the important components of Floortime, following the lead of the child.

Follow the child’s lead

Sometimes people think that following a child’s lead means that the child gets to do exactly what they want, with no boundaries set, or that the adult imitates or does everything the child wants them to. This is a misconception and we can better understand it by thinking of it as following the child’s interest or motivation. 

We look beyond the actions a child is doing to understand why they are doing them and then join them in that. For example, if you see a child holding a piece of an inset puzzle and putting it down to the board you might assume they are trying to fit the piece into the puzzle and go to help them do it. However, the child may have no interest in fitting the piece, they may like the sound it makes as it hits the board, or the feeling they get in their hand and arm when they bang it down, or how it looks as they move it downwards. By watching closely we can see what it is the child is enjoying and then follow their lead. So, for this example, if we think the child is enjoying the sound we might get another puzzle piece and start banging it too. Often this will catch the child’s attention and we might go on to expand our interaction by changing up the rhythm of the banging or banging on a different surface to make a new sound. In this way we can connect with the child and begin a back and forth interaction. From here we can entice the child into more and more complex interactions. 

Children develop and learn most when they are motivated by and interested in what they are doing. That’s why we play the games they like to play or show interest in and have a conversation about their favorite topic. By genuinely connecting with a child through something that is important to them we can begin the process of forming a relationship, developing communication and working on skills such as managing frustration and problem solving.

Next Time: 

In the next blog I’ll talk some more about some of the guiding principles of Floortime and in particular about the importance of affect and attunement and what these terms mean.

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