Building successful lives, one play activity at a time

December 01, 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!

12.1.2020 Shape sorting, pattern making, and cleaning up when asked, in Room 6.

A recent visit to this classroom found children engaging in Play Centers in small groups and in direct instruction. Red bear, blue bear, red bear, blue bear, what comes next? When children learn how to complete a pattern they are building skills that help them later with mathematics, music, environmental observation, and reading. It’s a skill that many of our children work on here at Crossroads,

Another play center was shape sorters. This type of activity forms a child’s spatial awareness, and exercises their fine motor ability.

In addition to the fun of making patterns and sorting shapes students also were working on cleaning up skills. Following the group direction that it was time to clean up, youngsters trooped around the room and picked up any out of place toys and materials, and were heartily rewarded by their teachers with lots of praise.

Great job, Room 6!

11.1.2020 Social Centers in Room 5

Whether it’s building with bristle blocks, linking with math link cubes or playing a board game, when you do it with others, there’s so much to learn.

Students in Room 5 on this occasion are engaging in centers. This means that they will all rotate through the offered activities, and get a chance to try all three. As the groups rotate, they learn from each other and from the teacher stationed at each center, as well as from their own experimentation.

Children need to learn to work together in ways such as this. As the grow up, the world is full of opportunities for collaboration and interaction. Groups such as this one help them prepare for those future experiences. Students are successful not just today, but for their lives.

10.5.2020 Dollhouses with Room 3

Dollhouses are a wonderful way to teach kids to play with lots of things, including but not limited to dolls alone.

For instance, in a recent play session in Room 3, students were grouped in small groups and got to interact with little people, animals, cars, and each other in and around the house. This activity helps kids who are working to understand concepts such as in and out, up and down, under and over, beside, next to and in between.

It also gives children opportunities for imaginative play; acting out interactions between characters and environments is an important aspect of childhood social development.

Here’s a nice article we found on with some tips for encouraging imaginative play:

We’re very thankful for donations and grants that help us acquire the materials and supplies needed for our students to work on social skills at school. please visit our DONATE page if you’d also like to contribute.

8.17.2020 Toddler Play, with Room 2

“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato

Watching Room 2’s young learners at play is heart-warming and interesting. Ms. Kim’s classroom is fun to step foot into, and is set up with environmental cues and boundaries, making it easy for children to move through transitions and understand the function and expectations in the various areas. There’s a lot of cheerful art and cues around, too, aligning with the set up of the room. When children are situated in the play area, as they are at this moment, there are many choices and options, all appealing. While they graze from one to the next toy, they interact through sight, touch, smell, and sound, and taking things out to inspect them is constant. These toddlers move among the many fun toys and play equipment available for several minutes, and then Kim introduces musical instruments, which causes all eyes and bodies to pivot to her and to join her in music making. How wonderful!


Practicing play skills takes many forms, and leads to wonderful gains. These preschoolers have 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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