Skip to main content

The Developing Child | November 2021

The Developing Child | November 2021

Up to this point, we have learned strategies to promote social play and how we help develop our children’s ability to think, reason, solve problems, and learn new information by playing with them. But it’s not always easy to join in and play with a child who is reluctant to interact with you or who likes to do repetitive things on his own.

Remember he’s not doing these things because he doesn’t want to include you. He simply doesn’t know how to include you in his play. Instead of getting discouraged, look for opportunities to work yourself into what he’s doing. Here are some ways to playfully insert yourself into your child’s world and “keep it cookin” once you have an interaction started.


To get the door open and get an interaction started, follow your child’s lead and be interested in what he is interested in. Imitate his play. Imitation can help your child get involved in two-way interactions, with chances for each of you to copy one another.


Step 1: Imitate your child.

  • First observe what he's doing, wait (give your child enough time to send you messages in his own way) and listen for any messages that he might be sending you so that you can interpret them.
  • Then copy what you see and hear.
  • Comment on your child's actions or what he said.

Step 2: Help your child imitate you.

  • If your child is interacting, add something new to
    the game.
  • Take one turn and wait.
  • If your child is not yet interacting, stay at step


Now that you have an interaction started, you have to keep it going, or keep it cookin' if you will. Insist on joining in on what your child is doing, even if he doesn’t welcome you at first. This might mean sitting next to him when he doesn’t seem to want you close by or blocking his path when he’s running away. It’s okay to Intrude, but playfully, please.

Remember that your child may not be too happy about any of your intrusions, but with some playful persistence on your part, solitary activities can be turned into interactive games.


If your child is not yet interacting

1. Get next to your child.

2. Include his interests (follow his lead).

3. Insist on joining in (depends on your child's stage in the activity).

4. Make it fun.

If your child is not yet interacting

Get in the way – This strategy works well for children who like to walk about a room or an open space without seeming to know where they are going. You should get in the way and do something your child likes, such as tickling him. After you get in the way, quickly get out of the way for a few moments, then do it again.

Hide and search – Always let your child “get” the
item that is being hidden. Don’t hide the item
completely – make sure your child can still see part
of it. Keep it fun and animated. Back off a bit when
your child gets upset but keep tying if the
resistance is mild.

Keeper of the pieces -Get the interaction started
by handing the pieces several times without
waiting. When you do wait, do not pull the pieces
back (we do not want to start a game of tug of
war!). Wait long enough for your child to do
something, such as reach further towards you for
the piece or a look – the goal at this point is
interaction, not necessarily communication.

If your child is interacting

Add something new – Your child may initial
resist the addition to the play routine.
Persisting playfully is still extremely
important to help your child accept the new
part of the game.

Same toy in a different way – Children may
initially resist the change. Persisting
playfully is still extremely important to
help your child accept the new way to play.
Do not change too much of the game all at

Remember that your child still needs to hear models of words he can say. When you intrude with your child, you also need to interpret any messages he might be sending as communicative


We hope you've enjoyed our newsletter. To learn more about our services, visit our website:

You Might Also Enjoy...

The Developing Child | January 2022

The causal relation between exploration and cognitive development has been proposed in both directions: smarter, more behaviorally flexible species are more likely to play, and play may support the acquisitions of motor, cognitive, and social skills. (1)

The Developing Child | September 2021

In this issue, we start a conversation about cognition, the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.