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Aug 15, 2013

Beyond Playgroups Fall 2013 sessions begin soon!

We're excited to annouce our session dates for Fall 2013!

1st Session:        September 7, 14, 21, 28
                          October 5, 12

2nd Session:       October 19, 26
                          November 2, 9, 16, 23

Group Times:             9:00am - 10:30am (1st group)
                                10:45am - 12:15pm (2nd group)

We currently have openings, though space is limited. 

Groups are held on Saturdays at Kidspace in San Francisco.
  • Please note that while we believe that children learn from each other's strengths we also try to match children based on common interests and developmental level.
  • Facilitated playdates (in home or at neighborhood parks) are also available for children who may need more regular support and/or would benefit more from 1:1 interactions.
Email us at: to register and for more information

CommentsCategories beyond playgroups social groups special needs

Aug 8, 2013

Imitation with Children--Not About Flattery, But Learning

One of the beauties of childhood is the natural passion for learning about all things. Young children learn by exploring their environments and interacting with others. This leads to imitation. And, when a child learns to imitate, new doors open as he or she begins to demonstrate actions, expressions, and sounds/ words picked up from others. Imitation is a major milestone that most children develop naturally, though many children with developmental challenges will need additional support in reaching this milestone. 

So, how can you help your infant or child learn to imitate? The key is to focus on engaging and interacting with your child around his or her interests. We don't need to "teach" children for them to learn, but rather provide opportunities and an environment that will foster curiosity and exploration. 

The following are a few ideas to help you get started...

  1. Spend time every day (even if just 5-10 minutes at a time) playing with your child on the floor. Turn off your phone, forget about the laundry or emails you need to respond to, and allow yourself to focus and connect with your child in this moment. Every moment you connect, your child is learning!
  2. Take time to observe what your child does. What are his favorite toys? How does she respond to the sounds of the toys banging together? What are his intentions as he explores particular toys/ objects? The first step in building on your child's understanding of the world is knowing how your child thinks and what drives him or her. We learn by what motivates us!
  3. Explore imitating what your child does first, such as tapping the floor as your child does or repeating back a silly sound. Not only will your child get a kick out of you imitating his or her actions, but you will also help your child learn to imitate a wider range of actions, expressions, and sounds. If your child already knows how to do something, he or she will have an easier time imitating that action again and again.
  4. Once your child is engaged in a back and forth interaction with you -- imitating something he or she can already do, begin slightly varying the action or sound. If your child makes and "baba" sound, start making a "dada" sound or if your child taps a block on the floor then tap a block on another block. 
So connect with your inner child and start playing! Engaging your child in his or her interests will will lead to all sorts of possibilities, and will ultimately help your child learn from you and later from his or peers.


Aug 6, 2013

Incorporating the DIR®/Floortime Model into Group Settings: Learning to Connect and Relate to Others

Written by Sara Chapman, MA and Chrissy D’Agostino, MA

Children learn dynamically. How we relate to others and to our environments becomes the basis for how we learn about the world and ourselves. Through these various experiences, children make connections about the world and their place within it. In the context of a group, many novel experiences and situations arise that allow a child to learn from others and to expand social understanding and thinking. These experiences can then be applied to the larger world.

The DIR®/Floortime Model is developmental and relationship-based approach that provides a framework for assessment and intervention and can be used not only within individual programs, but also to understand children within the context of a group setting. The model was developed by Drs. Stanley Greenspan and Serena Wieder, and enables parents and professionals to design comprehensive programs tailored to a child’s unique differences, strengths, and challenges. The goal of DIR®/Floortime is to help every child build healthy foundations for social, emotional and intellectual development.

D-I-R: How a child’s Developmental profile, Individual Differences, and Relationships, come together to inform and enrich intervention.


We look at each child’s individual developmental capacities to better understand:

  • when a child is most calm, organized, and attentive
  • how a child naturally engages and relates with adults and other children
  • how a child communicates wants, needs, and ideas
  • what supports a child to engage in a continuous flow of back and forth interactions and solve problems with others
  • whether a child engages in representational and symbolic play and uses language to represent ideas
  • whether a child bridges ideas together in a logical sequence to create play schemes and expresses himself or herself emotionally

In addition to understanding each child’s unique developmental progression, we also look at the overall development of the group. It is important to understand that what children can do one-on-one often decreases in the context of a group as there is more information to process and a greater variety of situations to negotiate.

Some questions we might consider when developing a plan for a group session include:

  • How is each child’s development impacted by the group experience?
  • At what level is each child able to engage and interact within the context of a group? 
  • What similarities and differences do we see between individual children?
  • What shared interests can we capitalize on that will support natural interactions to arise between the children?
  • How can we build on each child’s strengths and support challenges through peer modeling and support?

Individual Differences:

Each child takes in, regulates, processes, and responds to sensory information, such as sights, sounds, taste, smells, touch, and movement, differently. In order to understand how children relate to one another and the environment, we first have to understand how each child processes information. In a group, we also learn how children’s specific individual differences may be compatible or interfere with interactions, which provides opportunities for learning and coping that replicate real world experiences. For example, a child who is sensitive to sound may participate in a group with a child who tends to be louder and more active by nature. This creates opportunities to increase awareness of others, learn ways to cope with experiences that often may be disruptive or dysregulating to a child, and encourages children to learn to alter their actions based on the responses of others. The world is not always in our control, so it is important that children not only learn to relate to those that share common interests and ways of processing information, but also learn to cope in situations and within relationships/interactions that pose challenges.


Parents are a child’s first connection to the world, but children eventually make connections with adults other than parents and immediate caregivers. As children grow and develop, interest in other children develops too, and this becomes the basis for first friendships and the development of individuality and a strong sense of self. A supportive group experience provides opportunities for children to learn about and from others, in a supportive and nurturing environment, and to learn how to relate to other children through facilitated interactions.

Depending on the needs of the child, skills targeted might include:

  • learning how to initiate interactions and communicate effectively with others
  • responding to others
  • initiating play ideas 
  • exposure to a wider range of play materials and ideas
  • increasing flexibility and acceptance of others’ ideas
  • opportunities to use one’s strengths to increase confidence
  • imitating the actions of others (e.g. to expand play, communication, and motor skills)
  • learning to self-regulate within a group
  • participating in a combination of child-initiated and adult-led activities

Effective Strategies to Promote Peer Interactions and Awareness:

  • Incorporate individual and common interests into interactions and the environment to entice children into playing and connecting with others

  • Help children to pause and notice what their peers are doing, modeling comments for them to hear about the actions they see, particularly around common interests that might bring the children together 

  • Set up an environment that supports interaction by offering fewer toys and objects to promote parallel play

  • Offer the same toy another child is playing with to encourage parallel or interactive play 

  • Encourage children to direct communication towards each other. Adults should avoid becoming the voice for the children.

  • Some children tend to be directive, so model different types of communication for them, such as asking questions and sharing ideas

  • To encourage the development of pretend play, incorporate real props to give a concrete platform for exploring more symbolic ideas (i.e. dress up clothes & mirrors, dollhouse, doctor kits, car ramps, etc.)

  • Encourage motor or sensory experiences that do not require a lot of language. Often simple chase games are a great way to start positive interactions. Initially, the adult will be the glue that holds the children in interaction by creating repetition and a pattern for the game. Eventually, the adult can fade out as the children become more invested and learn how to carry on the game on their own.

  • Incorporate sensory experiences, equipment/materials, and a quiet space into the environment so that children have tools available to support self-regulation (and allow children to remove from group for brief periods of self-initiated quiet time)

  • Music and movement (e.g. parachute games, silly movement songs) provide a certain level of structure that can be organizing for many children and create a fun and shared experience


Jul 27, 2013

Catching Up...

It's been quite awhile since the last post and a lot has changed. With a 9 month now at home, we are learning just as much from our little guy every day as he learns from us. Seeing the world through the eyes of a baby reminds one to slow down and take pleasure in the simple things in life, such as the shadows we see during our walks or the excitement of an empty yogurt container -- who needs fancy toys! That being said, I'm excited to share, both as an educator and parent, resources, ideas, and experiences for parents and caregivers of young children that will provide more ways to engage your child and enrich his or her lives developmentally and educationally.

To start things off, I thought I'd share a quote that I really love. 

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."

- Benjamin Franklin

So, my goal will be to help you "involve" your child in becoming a more active participant in his or her learning process by capitalizing on individual interests or passions, whether your child is an infant, preschooler, has special needs, or is working on a new milestone or experiencing some sort of challenge. 

Check back frequently for resources, activity ideas, and fun anecdotes and feel free to share your own so we can learn from each other!


Jan 30, 2012

Smoothing the Path: Preparing Your Child for Preschool

Written by Sara Chapman, MA and Barbara Kalmanson, PhD

Starting preschool brings new learning opportunities for your child across a wide range of developmental areas including social, emotional, motor, and intellectual development. New and unexpected challenges also await your child, which lead to uncertainty and can cause stress. Your child will have many new experiences, be exposed to new sights, sounds, people, environments, and activities, and will experience separation from you that may invoke anxiety. Preparing your child well in advance can help him or her know what to expect and support a smoother transition into the school setting. It is important to remember that transitioning into school is a process and takes time. The goal is to reduce your child’s anxiety and help him or her develop a positive experience of school from the start.

The following are 10 Things You Can Do to Prepare Your Child for Preschool:

Visit the school with your child prior to your child’s first day.

  • Coordinate with the school team so that your child has an opportunity to visit the classroom and get familiar with the environment-- at his/her own pace with no demands.

Develop a transition plan.

  • Work with the school team to develop an individualized plan that works for your child.
  • Some children benefit from attending the first few days with you and/ or fading your time as your child adjusts. Other children benefit from a clearly established goodbye routine and do best when parents avoid drawing out the goodbye. You know what will work best for your child.
  • Minimize other changes to your child’s schedule as he is adjusting to this new environment.

Create a photo album with pictures of the new school, teachers, and students to help your child anticipate what to expect.

  • Take pictures of the different areas of the classroom, your child in the classroom, classroom teachers, students (if permitted) and toys/ objects your child shows interest in during the initial visit or ask the school team if you can come in to take pictures.
  • Place the pictures in a small book or mini photo album that you can look at and discuss together.

Create a goodbye ritual.

  • This may be the first time that your child is away from you for an extended period of time and separation might be difficult. 
  • BEFORE the first day of school, consider playing hide and seek/ peek-a-boo games in which you say goodbye and quickly come back. This playful and positive experience will help prepare your child for learning to say goodbye.
  • Create a routine for saying goodbye that is predictable and helps your child learn to anticipate this transition. Think of the successful ways you say goodbye in other situations and use those as a template for developing your school routine.
  • Create a “hello/goodbye” book that depicts this experience with photos of you waving goodbye and then returning to hug your child on each page. This allows your child to hold this image in his mind during these experiences
  • Avoid “sneaking out,” even if you think your child will not notice as this can create more uncertainty and anxiety for your child. Always say goodbye!
  • Your child’s attention might be diverted when you leave, but he or she will become anxious about where you have gone, search for you, and/or become upset. Your child may cling to you all the more the next time he or she even suspects you will be leaving him.  Although sneaking out spares you his or her pain and protest in the moment, it damages your child’s basic trust in you as his protector and safe haven.  If you demonstrate confidence in your child’s teachers and in his or her ability to enjoy school before you depart, your child will absorb your sense of safety in the new environment and that will help him or her to feel safe.

Create a social story and/ or visual schedule to help your child learn understand new expectations.

  • The story could illustrate the morning routine, the transition to school, favorite activities in which your child can participate at school.
  • Be sure to use real photos and images of your child in these scenarios as much as possible to keep things more concrete. Stories and visuals will be less beneficial if the symbols do not have meaning for your child.
  • Visuals can help children to organize and make sense of their experiences.
  • Take pictures of each step of the morning routine to help your child be more independent in preparing for school. Organize these in a schedule.
  • The more independent your child feels, the more control he or she will feel over his or her experiences. This in turn works to decrease anxiety that can often arise during periods of uncertainty.

Establish ongoing communication with the school team.

  • Develop a way in which you can easily and regularly communicate with the school team. A communication notebook that travels back and forth in your child’s backpack will make it easier to maintain regular communication about happenings at home and school. You’ll want to learn about your child’s experience during the day and it also helps the teacher to understand your child’s state, such as letting them know about changes in sleeping or eating patterns, if your child is constipated, suffering from allergies or coming down with a cold, a parent out of town, etc.
  • If you are more comfortable with email, check to see if the teacher would be willing to communicate through email as a way to maintain ongoing communication.
  • It’s important that you develop your own relationship with the school team, including teachers and administrators. If there are any school practices you wonder about, such as whether children are expected or required to nap, be sure to speak with the teachers about them and let them know what you know about your child. 

Create a passion poster.

  • Develop a list or images of your child’s favorite toys, objects, activities to share with the school team. You are your child’s best expert, so help the team learn the most they can about your child BEFORE the first day of school.

Allow your child to bring a favorite object or toy from home to school for comfort.

  • Some children feel grounded when they are holding onto a familiar object or photo, particularly during transitions.
  • If your child wants to bring the object they sleep with, such as a blanket or stuffed animal, it is best to buy a spare (or double) and send the extra to school so that the sleep object will not be misplaced.
  • You can also leave the school with photos of family members that your child can reference if he is missing you during the school day.

Engage in play with your child at home.

  • Join your child in play with his or her favorite toys and activities. Through these playful exchanges, you will help your child develop stronger connections and positive experiences that he or she can draw from in school.
  • These times of play will also help regulate your child and provide more opportunities for engaging, problem-solving, and learning that can be generalized to school.


  • This transition may be just as challenging for you as it is for your child.
  • Be sure to take care of yourself, so that you can be mentally and emotionally available for your child. 

Keep in mind that it may take your child some time to adjust to this new setting, possibly months. You may notice that your child becomes clingier and may also see new behaviors develop or old patterns resurface. This is all to be expected with any major transition. Be sure to maintain open communication with the school team and allow time for your child to forge new relationships.

Sara Chapman, MA is an Educational and DIR® Consultant in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a graduate of the DIR® Institute and DIR® Facilitator, through the Interdisciplinary Council for Learning and Developmental Disorders (ICDL). Sara is also an Assistant Faculty Member of the Profectum Foundation and a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 

Barbara Kalmanson, PhD is a Licensed Psychologist and Special Educator in private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Academic Dean of the ICDL Graduate School, Senior Faculty for the Interdisciplinary Council for Learning and Developmental Disorders (ICDL) and Senior Faculty of the Profectum Foundation.


Nov 28, 2011

Great Quotes

The following are some wonderful quotes I've come across recently:

"We must teach our children to dream with their eyes open." -- Harry Edwards

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up. -- Pablo Picasso

"In order to feel good about himself, a child must be successful in his own eyes, not just in your eyes. Self-esteem is an inner feeling: Sometimes it corresponds with outer reality, and sometimes it doesn't." -- Stanley Greenspan


Nov 23, 2011

Stay tuned....

Please check back frequently as interesting articles will be posted soon!