11 Days of Skills for Kids: Initiate Play

11 Days of Skills for Kids: Initiate Play

As we continue 11-day journey through the “non-academic/learning to learn” skills all children need, detailing the skill of initiating play, I just want to remind you that these shouldn’t be complicated. Don’t get overwhelmed, just do what you can. And – if you have questions, make sure to reach out! I’m ready and available to support you during this unexpected break from school!

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Skill #5: Initiating Play

When it comes to being successful socially, just as we often tell kids to just “talk to your friends,” we also tell our kids to “just play nice.”  For many kids, this also is not as easy as it sounds. Being a successful “player” incorporates many more skills than we often realize. It can be really really hard for kids and is often one of the main reasons that kids struggle socially.

Because playing incorporates so many skills, it is critical that we break these skills down and there is no better time to work on this than when kids are home and have more time to play.  Today we are going to start at the beginning, with the skill of initiating play. No matter what age your child is, play is critical! Remember, defining the behavior (exactly the way you want them to do it) is so important. It may seem obvious to you, but don’t assume your child knows what your expectations are. An example of defining what initiating play looks like is: (This is just an example, define it any way you want!)

  1. Turn your body and face toward the person you are trying to initiate with. 
  2. Either ask to play what is being played or ask them to join what you are doing.
  3. Respect what their response is.

Hint for Teachers: If there is a way that you want parents to initiating a conversation, let them know!

How to Practice Initiating Play

  1. To start, make sure your child has enough varied play interests. Have them try a new play activity every day for 10 days. Even if they only play with it for a few minutes. Keep track and encourage them to try again another day. The more interests or play activities they have, the more successful they will be initiating play!
  2. Have them choose 2-times per day where they pick an activity and ask someone to join them.
  3. Begin an activity (that you know they will like) and have them enter the activity appropriately.
  4. Watch cartoons and have your child tell you when they see someone enter into a social/play situation
  5. If there are other people in the family, have them choose an activity and “invite” another person to play.
  6. Role-Play. Make a list of play activities and let your child pick one a day and have them role-play initiating that activity. 
  7. Use the same list and have other people role-play and have your child choose the “right” way and the “wrong” way.
  8. If your child likes to draw, have them draw a play scenario where they initiated correctly. 
  9. If your child likes to write, have them write a story about play and have them include situations that went well and didn’t go well.
  10. Have your child create a play around a situation where initiating play went well or didn’t go well and how they can fix it.

Remember: This can and should be fun and can be done throughout the day!!!

Reinforce the Skill of Initiating Play

Setting up a simple reinforcement around this particular skill can be very simple.

Step 1: Define the behavior clearly. Make sure your child knows exactly what you want Staying On-Topic looks like

Step 2: Decide when you want to work on the skill. There is no right amount. Ultimately, your goal should be to make this time doable for you and your child. (you can do it one time a day or more. Whatever works for your family!

Step 3: Decide what kind of reinforcement you want to use and how often they receive it. For example;

Task Completion System

  • Decide what task you are going to reinforce
  • Write it down or post a picture
  • Give your child the task (activity)
  • When your child completes the task (activity) they receive the reinforcement

Step 4: Discuss what the plan is with your child and then stick to it. Consistency is key when it comes to reinforcing behavior! 

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Find More Resources

No matter what your goals are for this time, make sure to check out the other resources I offer for parents and teachers. Then, come back tomorrow and let’s talk about the next skill all children need to know!

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