There's a few things that work. One is playing catch. Janey loves to catch and throw balls. She's no expert, and she misses most of the time when catching, but that doesn't bother her. She's not that bad at throwing! I crocheted a ball out of yarn and stuffed it, for safe in the house play, and the other weekend all 5 of us had a very good time tossing it around. We play with balloons sometimes too, and kick a ball around outside on occasion. Another favorite of Janey's is one she plays mostly with Freddy---the "I'm going to get you!" game. He chases her around yelling "I'm going to get you!" and then catches up with her and grabs her shoulder and says "I got you!" She screams in excitement and then runs off again, turning around now and then to say "I'm going to get you!" to spur Freddy on.
The cats provide us with a lot of entertainment, and I am really pleased that lately Janey seems to notice them a lot more. She likes gently patting them, and she LOVES the game where I pretend they should be able to talk. When I tell them to say hi to her, she laughs and laughs. I think on some level she gets it---cats can't talk, but I'm telling them to talk! She probably relates to that quite a bit. And I can get out a little frustration with what I say to the cats "Now, come on, Ash! You could at least say 'Hi' to Janey! Be polite and say hi to her!" The cats never do, so we settle for them giving Janey a high five. That game can keep her happy for long, long periods, until the cats get fed up and leave.
Last night we had a long round of another of her favorites---Ghost. This means just putting a blanket over her head or mine and saying we are a ghost. It actually allows a lot of work on skills. I can ask Janey if she wants to be the ghost next or if she wants me to, I can give her ideas what to say as a ghost (mostly OOOOOOOO, but we mix it up a little with some "I've come to haunt you!" and so on), we can work on pretend and real when I pretend I really think Janey is a ghost, and then she takes a blanket off and I made a big deal of being relieved it's just my sweet Janey. We can easily involve other people by going in to scare Freddy or William while they do homework. And I can introduce words---last night we worked on "double" and "two" by being a double ghost together---the scariest kind of ghost of all, I used to always say when the boys were a double ghost to scare me, back in the day!
As fun as the few games Janey get into can be, it's also frustrating work to play with her. She never introduces new twists on her own. She'd be happy if I just played peek-a-boo with her for hours on end. I have to be very careful to try to vary what I say during games, or it becomes a fixed piece of echolalia forever associated with that game, and she gets upset if I don't say the right thing. And perhaps the hardest part is that Janey rarely seeks out playing. She'd probably frankly be happier if I just mostly left her alone to watch a video or bite on a biteable toy. It can start to feel like a one-man show playing with her after a short time. But I do have to believe it's valuable time. Even if she learns nothing from playing, if she's enjoying herself and enjoying my company for a few minutes, that's a plus. That's what we want our kids to have as part of their childhood---happy interactions with their parents stored somewhere in the memory banks. I hope Janey's brain has a place with that kind of memory.