Play is essential in children’s lives that have educational and developmental purposes. Play is important since it can help develop better motor and social skills.

A child may engage in play alone or with others. There are different stages of play during a child’s development.


Play Type Explanation 
Solitary Child plays with a toy or item, but does not sit next to or interact with others. There is limited interaction with other children. If someone were to sit next to or tries to interact with the child, the child will typically turn their back or move away from the person. 
Spectator Child observes other children playing around him or her but will not play with them. 
Parallel Child plays alongside others but will not play together with them. 
Associate Similar to parallel play but involves some social interactions. Child starts to interact with others in their play and there may be brief cooperation between in play. Child develops friendships and the preferences for playing with some, but not all other children. Play is normally in mixed sex groups. 
Cooperative Child plays with others with common goals and collaboration. Child may engage in negotiation, decision making, and rule making.


You can look over these stages and explanations to see where your child is in his or her play skills development. Depending on your child, he or she may move through the play stages with ease or difficultly. It is suggested to look at children who are at the same age as your child and observe their play stage and compare theirs to your child’s play stage. One method of teaching appropriate play skills is behavioral skills training (BST).

BST involves:

  • Providing instruction for the specific skill to be learned
  • Demonstrating the skill
  • Rehearsing the skill with the child
  • Providing positive and corrective feedback
  • Rehearsing the skill again if the child made a mistake during the first rehearsal.


In addition to teaching your child appropriate play skills, if you notice that your child engages in problem behaviors towards other children such as taking toys away without asking or not waiting his or her turn, then you may need to reinforce (e.g. providing preferred edibles or toys) to promote your child to engage in more appropriate play and decrease inappropriate behaviors. One method to increase appropriate play skills while decreasing problem behaviors is deferentially reinforcing appropriate behavior (DRA) that involves providing reinforcements for appropriate behaviors, prompting the appropriate behavior, and not providing any reinforcements for inappropriate behaviors.

In addition to BST and DRA, at BCOTB, we use the Verbal Behavior Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP) to assess where a child is in their independent play and social play. Based on the child’s assessment we then develop programs that targets specific independent play and social play targets such as, eye-hand coordination, production of cause-and-effect, visual discrimination, role-playing, and interactions with others. In addition to teaching those targets, the independent play and social play programs may help decrease or avoid problem behaviors such as aggressive and self-stimulating behaviors.

bcotb programs

Published On: November 19th, 2015 / Categories: Blog, Social Skills /

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