Learning Toys for Children

How to play with autistic child?

How to play with autistic child?

What play skills do autistic child lack?


1. Lack of pretend play skills

By the age of 3, most children have developed skills of engaging in symbolic play both alone and with others. They play symbolic toys the way they are designed—playing toy cashier.  Or they may create their own pretend play, for example, turning a cardboard box into a house. Autistic children need help to develop symbolic play skills.  Otherwise, they only repeat the same scenario over and over again.

2. Lack of social communication skills

Typical children quickly involve in communication and engagement. However, children with autism tend to play alone and have little desire or ability to communicate or play with other children. That’s why they are unlikely to be able to respond to others and share toys and attention with others.  They can’t imagine what other people are thinking and feeling either.

3. Lack of imitation skills

Typical children always imitate their peers when they play. But a child with autism may not even notice that others are playing toys at all and is very unlikely to observe others’ behavior and imitate them.

4. Lack of joint attention skills

Joint attetion skills are the skills we use when we share a common focus on something (people, objects, a concept, an event, etc.) with someone else. Children with autism lack join attention skills to interact with peers and form meaningful relationships with other people.

How to help your autistic children develop their play skills?

With parents’ help, you can help your autistic child learn and develop their play skills.

1. Exploratory play 

At this stage, children is exploring the world around them, through different sizes, shapes, colours and textures.  They are trying to use different senses to explore different objects.

How to teach your child this play skill?

To help your child with autism, you can encourage her to touch different objects and demonstrate how to play with different toys.

For example, you can try coin rubbing activity.  Gather up a few different coins, place a sheet of paper over the top and ask your child to use different crayons to ‘rub’ a colorful pattern into the paper.

2. Cause-and-effect play 

Cause-and -effect is an important skill as your child learns that his behaviour and actions result in a response.
For example, shaking a toy makes a sound. This helps your child develop early cognition and communication skills, and gives them a sense of control in this kind of play.

You can show your child how to play the toys.  To encourage your child a certain kind of play, praise your child when she does the right action.

cause and effect

3. Toy play (or ‘functional’ play)

Functional play means playing with toys or objects based on their intended function.  (For exmaple, kicking a ball, throwing a ball, pushing a toy car, etc)  It is an important way to help a child develop cognitive, problem-solving and social skills, through understanding how different objects work. Also it is important for helping children interact and develop a sense of connection with each other.


How to teach your child this play skill?

To help your child develop this play skill, break it into a number of simple steps. Teach one step at a time. First, imitate what your child plays.  Try to add one more step after that.  For example, if your child opens and closes a music box, you can imitate the sound of the music.  If he has a toy kitchen set, you can help him learn to pretend to make food for his dolphin toy before feeding it to him. Model the action by pretending to fry an egg in a pan for your stuffed bear, making sure to comment at the same time: “Look, I’m frying an egg for Mr. Bear.” (as you “fry” the egg). “He’s very hungry!He is waiting for my food. ”  Praise him if he doesn’t imitate how you play.

4. Constructive play

When children manipulate their environment to create things, they are engaged in constructive play. Experimenting with materials, they can build towers with blocks, construct objects with loose parts, play in the sand, and draw some patterns with chalk, build towers with legos.

Some children with ASD might have delays in this area of play, whereas others will progress much like typically developing children. Sometimes children with ASD excel at a skill like completing jigsaws, building Lego or drawing.

Constructive play is an important skill as it opens up a world of imagination for a child, helps a child understand the world around him by exploring the environment and improves his problem solving skills.

How to teach your child this play skill?

You can encourage constructive play by showing your child what to do. You can build a block and let him imitate. Or you can use pictures or photographs that show how to build a tower.

constructive play

5. Pretend play

Pretend play is when a child uses his or her imagination skill to create scenarios to play with themselves, other children, or toys. When your child is pretending to be a cashier, a doctor talking to a patient or a mum feeding her babies,  they are engaging in a pretend play.

Pretend play skill is important because it helps your child develop emotional, social, problem solving, language and imaginative skills. Studies have shown thatbetter pretend play skills at age 3 and 4 are linked to better language skills at ages 8 and 9.  Also,  the more varied and flexible a child’s pretend play, the more advanced his thinking skills are at ages 8 and 9.

toy kitchen

How to teach your autistic child pretend play?

Teach your children to show different emotions, perform simple pretend actions and pretend play with toys by breaking the play activity into small steps.

You can join your child to play and add a small step in the play.  For example, when he is playing with his toy car, join him and show him how to put a small rabbit into the car as a passenger and say, ‘Hey driver Timmy, please drive me home.’ Make sure the toy interests your child and then try to demonstrate some simple pretend play ideas to him.  Everytime only select two to three toys to your child and make the ideas simple.


What are the toys that encourage pretend play?

Your child’s favourite stuffed animal or doll, play dough, lego, toy food and dishes, costumes, props, vehicles, etc.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. As a teacher who has worked with children with autism, it can be challenging to get them to engage and play with others. I like the tips you provided to help these children learn to play. Play is such an important part of childhood because it is how children learn and develop. Not all children know how to play, so knowing how to teach them is crucial. Thanks for sharing your advice and knowledge on this important subject.

  2. Yeah I worked with some kids with ASD and they have really specific interests and it’s very difficult for them to focus on things they don’t find interesting … You’re spot on when you say the toy must interest the kid. Good thing you have quite a range of products here, some of these products stimulate their sensory as well, which is one of the issues faced by a number of kids with ASD , good little website you got here I’ll surely be looking around cheers

    1. Thanks for your sharing here. I hope these products can help the kids you work with.

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