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Tips for Special Playtime

Dad and son looking at seashells
Try to spend at least 5-10 minutes each day playing with your child.

Begin with at least five minutes of special playtime. When parents first start using praise, description, imitation, and active listening, they find that it takes a lot of energy and focus. It is hard to use the skills for more than five minutes. You can increase the amount of time you spend with your child in special playtime as your skill level improves. Other positive time with your child in addition to the special playtime is always good for you and your child. For instance, reading before bed or cuddling when watching a favorite show are also important to building a positive relationship with your child.

Be consistent with special playtime.

Try to make special playtime with your child happen at the same time each day. You and your child will enjoy it more when you choose a time when you can focus on having fun, you are not distracted by other activities, and when the time is predictable. Even if your child has had a bad day, keep the special playtime. This time will give your child the chance to get praise and attention from you for good behavior. It is a great way to show your child that you always love him.

Allow your child to lead the play activity.

Young children are told what to do all day. They have few chances to take the lead. If they are given time each day when they get to know the most about the activity and make the decisions, it will help them feel more independent and build confidence.

Praise your child’s good behaviors.

Let your child know what you like about what she is doing. When you praise behaviors you like, your child will do those behaviors more often. Make the praise specific, so your child knows exactly what you like. Use hugs, high-fives, a pat on the head, or a pat on the back to give more power to your praise. Click here for more information on using praise.

Imitate your child’s behavior.

Copy or mimic things your child does or things she says. Play with the same or a similar toy and attempt to use the toy like your child is using it. When you imitate your child’s behavior, your child will do those behaviors more often. Click here for more information on using imitation.

Describe what your child is doing.

Talk in as much detail as possible about what your child is doing. This is similar to the way a sports reporter or commentator might describe what is going on to someone who can’t see the action. This shows your child you are interested in what she is doing and giving her your full attention. Click here for more information on using descriptions.

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