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Initiating Play

It is important that children know how to initiate play. In order for them to be able to initiate play in a variety of settings such as school, day care, friends house and even at home, they may need some guidance and modelling. Parents, siblings and peers all play a large role in teaching a child to initiate play.

Here are some things parents and peers can do to promote independent play initiation.


  • One-on-one time: Create opportunities for you and your child to have play together, whether it is before dinner time or at the end of each day. Ensure you are completing tasks and activities that are enjoyable to them.

  • Scripts: Create scripts that the child can copy whilst playing with toys (e.g. “Here comes the train. The dog gets on the train. The dog gets off the train. Here comes the train again. The cat gets on the train. The cat gets off the train”). This helps the child to learn how to use language in play and to plan and sequence actions within a play activity.

Peer interaction: Create opportunities for the child to engage with other children in structured situations (e.g. play group) and social environments (e.g. playground).

Play dates: Set up opportunities for the child to have friends over and to go to other people’s houses to learn more about sharing and interacting in different environments.

Learning that ‘no’ is okay in play

It is important for children to know that it is okay when someone says ‘no’ to playing with them. This may include another child at school who has said ’no’ to your child when they asked to play with them. This is okay, as this can occur from time to time. It is important to prepare children on how to respond to this, incase of this occurring, so then they don’t become too disheartened.

What to do when another child says 'no' to playing with your child

It is important to prepare and inform your child on what to do when a child says 'no' to playing with them. It can be useful for your child to know what to do before play time (lunch and recess), to ensure that they have someone to play with.

Some preparation and prevention tools for your child can include:

  • Lining up with a friend before lunch to play with at lunch.

  • Bringing a ball to lunch.

  • Ask a friend to play the day before or before a break (recess or lunch)

Here are some things your child can say or do in response to 'no' in play:

  • Play by themselves on play equipment.

  • They can say to the child 'that's okay, maybe tomorrow'.

  • Ask someone else to play or ask to join another group of children.

  • If the response is still 'no' maybe suggest a ball game.

  • Go to the library and read a book or play on the computer.

  • Relaxation techniques such as 5 finger breathing to calm your child down, incase of distress.


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