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How to Play with Your Child

Interacting with your child and providing all the right experiences can start to feel overwhelming. The good news is children are naturally inclined to explore the world around them. After all, play is their primary occupation! Keep the following tips in mind the next time you play with your child – whether they are 2 months, 2 years, or 12 years – this advice applies to all ages and all abilities!

Follow Their Lead

Play should always be fun and joyous for your child. Let your child choose their play activities and direct the pace and style of play. Approach their play by first simply observing what they are doing. The next easy step is to sit next to your child and imitate their style of play. Studies show that imitating your child, and especially a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), is one of the most effective ways to develop their play skills, promote increased eye contact, and promote increased touch between the child and parent.


Once you are next to your child and engaging in the same activity, acknowledge their movements, choices, questions, or statements.  You can do this by smiling, laughing, verbally responding, repeating, or imitating their behaviors.


Keep play moving forward by offering new ideas or suggestions, just be sure to keep it joyful and nonobligatory. Learning from and interacting with others is a major benefit of play, so you can provide an experience your child may not have otherwise considered. Modeling for your child certain play behaviors or dialogue also has moderate to strong evidence to support this practice, particularly among children with ASD, to improve play skills.

Stay Calm

No matter what age your child is, they will be looking to you for cues on how to feel about, interpret, and respond to their world.  Stay calm, stay joyful and your child will be more inclined to do the same.

– Sadie Ray, OTR/L