Tips from ABA: How to Play with Your Kids

Let’s Play! 

Why is play important?

As you develop your child’s play skills, you are also helping your child learn and practice other important skills. This allows children to practice exploring their environment, imitate, communicate, share, perspective take, and so much more! Not only are they building new skills but you are also building your relationship! 

Before we begin, think about meeting them where they are at:

There are different levels of play such as parallel play, interactive toy play, and pretend play. Meet your child where they are at. If your child will only accept parallel play (playing side by side) right now, that is okay! Start there! You can slowly build up their play skills once they are comfortable with you playing near them. 


How do we do this? Here are some general tips: 

  • Again, meet them at their level – think of what toys they engage in right now. Is it cause-and-effect toys? Or board games? Use toys they can participate in.
  • Pick toys they like! 
    • Let your child lead and you can join in.
  • Expand their play slowly 
    • You may need to model new play multiple times before the child notices or imitates – don’t worry, that’s okay! 
  • Some children may only be comfortable letting you play beside them, or even just watching them – if so, narrate! 
    • Talk about what they are doing and how fun and cool their play is! 
    • Use the “one up rule” – if they are speaking in one word phrases, use two. If they are speaking in two word phrases, use three.
  • Watch and imitate your child’s play – this shows them that what they are doing is fun and interesting too! 
  • Don’t be discouraged if your child is not interested in playing with you right away. There is no timeline. Your enthusiasm and excitement to play with your child will shine through. 


Remember to follow your child’s lead when teaching play skills, and most importantly, HAVE FUN! 


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