Initiating Play Activity

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Initiating Play Activities
Social Skills Group Activity: Initiating Play
Developed by Deborah Abelman, Ph.D., PTAN Project Staff

Introduction:
When we teach children the language to use in order to either invite other children into their play or to enter into other children’s play, we often make the assumption that by knowing the right words to say, children should be able to initiate play. But to successfully get others to play requires the abilities to share ideas, negotiate, compromise, and to move on when told, “I don’t want to play with you right now.” Some children need direct teaching of these skills, while others may need reminder activities. For those children who appear to be competent in initiating play, these activities will help them gain a better understanding of their own behaviors, and increase and enhance their problem solving skills. These activities have been developed for all children ages three years through five years in early care and education programs. However, they may be adapted for younger or older children or for other care situations.

The activities in each lesson are based on the knowledge and skills taught from the previous lesson(s) and therefore should be presented to the children in the order given. It is recommended that each session be between 15 and 30 minutes long, dependent upon the developmental and intentional skills level of the children in the group. Only one session should be held per day, and either two or three sessions per week, giving the children time to process the information they are learning. A single lesson may be divided into two sessions, but only one lesson should be taught each session.

These activities should be conducted in small groups of approximately five (5) children, but no more than eight (8). Each group should include children of differing skill levels to encourage peer modeling and mentoring. Once a group has been formed, the same children should participate together in this series of lessons to ensure consistency and build a shared understanding of the skills and concepts being taught.

Social Skills Group Activity: Initiating Play
Lesson 1

Explain to the children that for the next couple of weeks you are going to be learning about asking each other to play. Ask them why it is important to be able to ask their friends and classmates if they want to play. Responses may include:

→So we can play together
→So we can help each other when we make something
→So we can share toys

Record their responses on chart paper as a way to help organize the discussion and validate their ideas. When everyone is satisfied with the list say to the children, “You’ve put together a list of why it’s important to be able to ask each other to play. This list is going to help us remember while we’re learning about asking our friends to play. Another way to help us remember is to keep a journal. We will end each lesson by ‘writing’ in our journals about we’ve learned.” Have the children “write” about the day’s lesson in an “asking others to play” journal. (See Appendix A for more information on journals.) Social Skills Group Activity: Initiating Play

Lesson 2

Ask the children if they remember why it is important to be able to ask their friends and Classmates if they want to play. Show them the list they made and go over it with them. Then ask them, “What can you say when you want to join your friend who is playing with the legos?” Responses may include:

→“Can I play legos with you?”
→“Can I play with you?”
→“I want to play legos with you.”
→“I want to play with the legos too.”

List their responses on chart paper. When everyone is satisfied with the list tell them, “This is step one of our ‘asking to play with a friend’ list. Thank you for helping make this. When our list is all done we can hang it in our classroom. Now let’s practice asking to play with a friend.” Give a child a few legos, puzzle, or other small toy. Have the child next...
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