Help your child feel comfortable around other children by visiting places where they may come across other children. Demonstrate how you may greet other children for example smiling or saying hello.
Think of yourself as a coach, your role is to:
Include unstructured playtime: this can be achieved by putting out some toys at the start of the session and allowing the children just to do their own thing; you could put on a film or allow them to chase each other and then sit down for a snack together. Don’t worry if the children do not talk to each other on this occasion. Allow them to become familiar with each other.
Include structured playtime: you will need to supervise and plan this type of play. You should expect the children to stay with each other and possibly talk to each other.
Create a feeling of teamwork: some of the best activities for encouraging talking are those that lead to a sense of working together, each child must do things in a specific order to reach the required target. For example:
To encourage your child to play and talk with their new friend, provide them with a task but don’t tell them how to do it e.g. make me a spaceship; build a house just like this one. This will show the children what they need to achieve but will create an opportunity to discuss how they need to get to the end result. It will allow them to problem solve together. Always remember to step in when the children need some help to keep things moving!
Games with rules such as board games, bingo, catch or hide and seek provide lots of opportunity to practise turn taking skills either non verbally or using verbal communication.
Before the play date, rehearse with the child what is going to happen. You could draw a cartoon strip or write a simple story together. This will also provide a visual support for your child to access on the play date if needed.
Discuss what a friend is with your child. You could talk about the following:
Try to back up what you discuss using visual reinforcements or written reminders that could be stuck on the wall or in the play area
Suggest nice things that children could say to each other. Don’t use too many as your child will become confused.
1. Talk about ways in which play can be initiated.
2. Talk about how to continue the play.
3. Talk about how to end the play.
It’s time to step in when:
Provide a general comment that gives the child an idea about what he could do next. You are asking the child(children) to guess from what you have said what you think they should do next e.g. one child has all the cars, you could say to the other child, “I think Ben has some cars for you.” This hints that Ben could offer a car to his friend or for the other child to ask Ben for a car.
Don’t tell your child exactly what to do or say but be more specific than when giving a hint. For example, your child wants to go outside, you could say, “You could ask…if he wants to play outside.”
Tell the child what to do/say:
This is actually telling the child what to do or say. For example, “…say to… I want to play with the car.”