Building successful lives, one play activity at a time

January 09, 2020

Students here are making great gains in social skills development, by practicing play skills at school. Let’s all give them our applause for such great learning!


Practicing play skills takes many forms, and leads to wonderful gains. This group of preschooler has grown so much this year in their ability to play with toys together in a group, to take turns, to give a toy or item to another person, and so much more!

*We are always thankful for donations and grants that help support and expand our programming resources for social skills development!  


One of our most important programming areas is Social Skills Development.

Learning to play, to be with other children, to take turns, play with toys the way they’re intended to be played with, to share… these are some of the skills that are foundations of success in school, families and work later on.

Sometimes a child needs lots of teaching in order to know how to play. Teachers and therapists work consistently, sometimes using modeling strategies, or visual strips with steps of what to do with the toy.

For example, playing with legos. Perhaps a child had previously lined up the legos along a wall, whereas the function of them is to build. The teacher might teach this skill by starting with telling the child to “build,” then modeling it by putting one lego upon another, then asking the student again to “build.” Once the individual has acquired what to do with just 2 legos, the teacher would add a third lego and then a fourth, and so on until they are building and playing with a whole lot of legos. This is the work of ABA, to break the skill down and let the child learn at his or her own pace, always reinforcing their progress.

Thus, when a child who has not been independent before with a play skill gets a toy and plays independently, it is a really big deal. The Room 3 team was greatly excited and proud of a student who has been working on independent play with legos, who recently became successful with this significant skill!

6.4.2019 Play skills are among the building blocks of civilization, are they not?

And with opportunities for play, our teachers and therapists address many of the goals our students are working on in the areas of interaction, following directions, motor activity, and more.

“Play is the beginning of knowledge.”  George Dorsey, American anthropologist and ethnographer.

At Crossroads Center for Children, there are many different classrooms and therapy settings. Targeted play and social skills are incorporated throughout the day in a variety of ways, such as centers, group games, and often as part of an academic or conceptual lesson.

Toys and favorite play activities are frequently and strategically used as reinforcers for good working. Building on these moments of inter-connection, staff members grasp moments to expand on current interests, and pave the way for new understanding and skills. Opportunities to expand pretend skills and the fun of being silly together are part of the magic.

Engaging children in play situations happens in many ways. The moments captured here allow us a glimpse of some of the teaching techniques used. Depending upon the individual needs of each child, teachers and therapists will use strategies such as shadowing, modeling, hand-over-hand assistance, proximity, and verbal prompting.

It’s also important to build on a solid foundation, so teachers spend the time and attention to break down skills into parts that are manageable for the individuals they are working with.


Kids learn from adults and from the other kids they are with. Teachers often put certain students together in center groups in order that they can learn from each other. At Crossroads you’ll also find that the grown-ups play and interact with their students, modeling the skills desired.

Play skills are among the building blocks of civilization, because this is the arena wherein people learn to ask for a turn, share with others, share information, act as a member of a group, and form bonds with other people. In their own homes and communities these skills lead well to life skills, school skills, and job skills.

If you’re looking for ideas of activities and ways that our therapists and teachers use to build all manner of skills with the students here at Crossroads, read some of our other posts. As always, we welcome comments on things that are working well for you, too.

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