Social Skills Series: Playtime Strategies for Children

Social skills are important for children to acquire early on in life to help them navigate the world around them. Here is a list of strategies parents and teachers can use to help kids with social skills by playing with them!



This blog will provide children and parents with information on building social skills through playtime activities. The first way to promote social interaction is to get children to role-play with each other. For example, one child can be the cashier while the others are customers. Another idea is to have children practice small talk by inviting them to share their hobbies and interests.

Basic Strategy: Pretend Play

Pretending to do things that adults are doing is a great excellent way for children to learn how to interact with their environment. For example, when a child pretends to cook food in the kitchen, they learn how to follow recipes and take turns while cooking. When they pretend to drive a car, they learn how to decide which roads to go down and when it is appropriate to be in the right or left lane. 

Playtime Tips

Children learn through play. Playtime is a time to explore and experiment, which helps children learn new skills. When planning playtime, it’s essential to include a variety of playthings. Encourage children to use an assortment of objects that are large and small. Ask your child what they want to do with the toys and follow their lead. If possible, provide wet materials like paint or clay so sensory play.

Here are some other tips:

1) Don’t crowd the play area 

2) Provide a variety of toys 

3) Let kids move around and explore the space 

4) Make sure there is room for everyone 

5) If possible, let kids play outdoors

6) Have an area for quiet play

Strategies to Promote Cooperation

Playtime is an essential part of childhood. It provides children with opportunities to learn how to work with others and practice their social skills. Children can learn how to cooperate through a variety of activities. One strategy is to have children take turns with different tasks. If they are playing “store,” one child could help you (the parent) put the items on the shelves, and the other child could be in charge of taking care of money and making change. Another strategy is to involve children in informal problem-solving. For example, if you need someone to help you carry groceries, ask them for their suggestions. Children will often work together without adult prompting. 

Strategies to Promote Showing Empathy

One way to promote showing empathy is to set up a play scenario where a character is sad, such as not being able to find their favorite toy. Kids then get to work together and help the character find the toy. Rather than tell them what the character is feeling, you can ask them what they think the characters might be feeling.  A second strategy is to ask the child to think of a friend and pretend that their friend is sad. Then have the child walk through how they might comfort the friend. This can be played out by having the child act it out with a doll, stuffed animal, or toy. Make sure you praise what your children are doing right and reinforce good behavior as you work on this skill.

Strategies to Promote Social Skills with Peers

Your child will learn more about their peers and how to play alongside them by using these strategies: 1. Use a picture schedule. Create 5-10 pictures of fun, safe play activities and hang them on the wall where your child can see them. Tell your child that you will go over the schedule with them (show them the pictures) so they know what to do while you and your partner are away. The plan should include various activities (e.g., playing with cars, baking cookies, looking at books). If possible, engage your child in creating and making some of the pictures on the schedule. Make sure you pick activities that your child likes, so they will be more interested in doing them when you are not around. 

2. Give a daily “play story.” Your partner should tell your child about one play activity I scheduled for the day. This helps make expectations explicit and encourages independent play when you are not there to model it for them. If possible, teach your partner to use language and tone of voice to keep things positive (“We’re going to the park tomorrow, and I know how much you like that!”). But also give your partner a heads-up if there’s a play activity that might be a bit more challenging or risky (e.g., “We’re going to go swimming this afternoon. You’ve been practicing, so I think you’ll do great!”).


This blog was all about promoting social skills in children and the strategies used to do so. The process mentioned were having children interact with other children, allowing them to make their own choices, and providing opportunities for cooperation. These strategies will promote more social skills in children, leading to a higher quality of life.

I hope you found this blog informative and the information helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Applied Behavior Analysis and the services Behavior Matters, LLC provides, please email