Recently I was asked by a client to help them develop eye contact with one of their 2 year old twins. I was amazed how little activities were out there that would be appropriate for this age. Another reason, I was taken back by the lack of activities was the fact that eye contact is an essential skill for social development. Here are a few activities that I found and created.
Eye Contact Games:
Model correct behavior:
Always get down on eye level and make eye contact. You may even want to sit on the ground right next to your child. When necessary touch them, you can touch their hands, shoulders or chin, or maybe even on their nose. Don’t talk to them from behind your computer or phone.
Praise: Praise your child when they are looking at you.
Whenever your child requests something remind them to make eye contact. Do not give them the requested item until they make eye contact. As the child makes a request play “dumb” if they are not making eye contact and pointing. When necessary hold the item requested “hostage” place it on your forehead. Don’t give the item to them until they point at the item, ask for the item and make eye contact. Remember pointing and eye contact are related expressions. You want them to relate physical expressions with facial expressions as well since they both show intent. Together they make the message the child is trying to express clearer. This should go along way to helping develop this skill. You can practice this with any game or activity where requesting is part of the activity.
Visual aid reminders: Googly-eyes or bright sticker on your “third eye” are great reminders
Peek –a- boo:
This tried and true game is where many of us began to develop eye contact. A great time to play it is during diaper changes.
The Eyes Game - Is another great variation of peek-a-boo.
Hello Panda – This was much loved peek-a-boo book in my house.
Any book with cut outs can be used this way.
Screen Costume Chase:
Make a screen with a hole at your child’s level. Put on costume behind the screen. Then, you should peak out of the hole. After that, come out and chase/ tickle child. When they get the hang of the game, don’t chase them till they look at you.
Take a favorite puzzle or a new exciting one, and place the pieces around the room. When the child makes eye contact and requests a ride. Then give them a ride on your back or carry them to pick put the pieces. As each piece is found place it in the puzzle until the puzzle is complete.
Once your child “catches a fish” they need to put it in the “bucket”. You can use any container to be the bucket. The child can only get the bucket once they make eye contact with you.
Have one adult push the child. Then, have the other one play peek-a-boo with them.
Doctor/Vet and Nurse Game:
Have the child be the doctor, and you can be the nurse. Have the child indicate what tool they need next. Do not give them the next tool until they make eye contact.
Have your child pretend to be a costumer in a store. They can’t buy their item until they hand you the money with eye contact. Then, they can receive their item.
This is a great list of things to say to encourage eye contact:
Feel free to check out my MB Pinterest board to see where I some of these activities came from, and inspired many of the others.
An important note, if this is something that you are very concerned about, and/or you don’t quickly see an improvement after trying out these suggestions, I do suggest talking to your doctor about your concerns. They are several concerning reasons a child may not be making eye contact. I am an educator and not therapist so keep that in mind.