How To Develop Turn-Taking – Practical Ideas and Resources

How To Develop Turn-Taking – Practical Ideas and Resources

As parents, we all find it hard when our child has difficulty interacting with others. You can’t help but look around and notice other children happily playing together and enjoying each other’s company, which of course, makes you worry all the more about your own child.

How To Develop Turn-Taking – Practical Ideas and ResourcesWhen children have difficulties with anything, whether simple, such as not being able to reach the toy they want, or complex, such as finding it hard to tolerate other children because of the noise and unpredictability of their behaviour, we have to help them that little bit more. When they can’t reach something, we move it so that they can get it, or we give it to them. When they have social communication difficulties, we need to use the same approach – we have to work that little bit harder to enable them. Many children don’t need that help. Many do. We are the key, the enablers, the helping hands. It might not be as you thought it would be, but YOU are a vital person, who can help your child hugely and show them that interacting with others can be fun.

Skills you need to focus on for your role as an enabler

1) Looking

Watch your child carefully, tune in to the signs that an activity/experience is too much, so that you know when to stop it. Notice what they enjoy, what gives them pleasure, what makes them laugh, so that you can use this to interact with them. Notice when they look at you so that you can respond positively. This will help them develop the ability to look at others in order to share the pleasure they feel in an activity/toy/experience. Position yourself so that it is easy for them to look at you, and to make eye contact and communicate with you in a natural, unforced way.

2) Reduce Language and keep it at the Child’s Level 

When a child has communication difficulties, it is instinctive to talk more, and to ask question after question, thinking that this will help the child talk and say more. Unfortunately, this can be overwhelming and put pressure on the child, leading to less communication. It is hard because whilst we expect to use few words and avoid questions with much younger children, we don’t expect to have to do this with children aged four and older. But we are enablers – and in that role, we have to change what we do so that we can help the child change what they do. It is not easy, but it is worth the hard work.

3) Follow the Child’s Lead

Sometimes, in our desire to give our child wonderful new experiences and to help them learn, we introduce games and toys we like or that we think will help them, or that other children their age are playing with. All our intentions are good, but unfortunately we are taking the child away from their interests, and this can be difficult for them and have the opposite effect to the one you were expecting. A less stressful response is to see if you can share what they are interested in, rather than take it away from them.

5) Break Skills Down into Little Steps 

How To Develop Turn-Taking – Practical Ideas and ResourcesWork on each step in order to achieve the skill you want to teach them. For example, many children cannot go straight to taking turns in a game, you have teach turn taking in little bite sized steps, building up to your final goal. When it is hard to work on a skill such as turn taking with your child, put your thinking hat on and see if you can find a way to make it easier, a way to break it down into smaller steps, which the child can achieve.

Find the step that they can do and start there. It might take time to find that first step, but it is worth persevering until you do find it. Adjust what you do so that it is just right – not too hard – not too easy – but the level that enables your child to succeed.

Five Ideas For Activities to Develop Turn-Taking Skills

Resources

Below are five ideas for activities to develop turn taking skills, and advice on adapting them. You can also download these activities as handy instruction cards in these PDFs below –  I hope they are helpful.

PDF Activities 1 & 2

PDF Activities 3 & 4

PDF Activity 5

1. Activity One: Bubbles

Why?

  • To develop attention and listening skills
  • To develop taking turns and doing an activity with another child or in a small group
  • To follow adult direction
  • To have fun 

Who?

With at least one other child – start with one and add another when you think it is appropriate and the child will be able to manage. If it is too much, go back to just one other child.

Where?

You can play this anywhere! At home, at nursery, at school, in the park, anywhere!

Tips

You can use bubbles that you blow with a wand or that you put in a dish and blow with a bubble gun.

You need:

An adult and at least two children, and bubbles.

What you do:  

Blow some bubbles and tell the children to pop them.

Variations:

  • Blow the bubbles, the children can’t pop them until you say, “Ready! Steady! POP!”
  • The children take turns to pop bubbles, rather than pop them at the same time as each other
  • One child blows bubbles and the others pop them
  • Instead of popping bubbles, children can clap on the bubbles, jump on them – you can use different actions to pop them. 

2. Activity Two: Following Instructions to stop and go!

Why?

  • To develop attention and listening skills
  • To follow adult direction
  • To do an activity with another child or in a small group
  • To have fun!

Who?

With at least one other child – start with one and add another when you think it is appropriate and the child will be able to manage. If it is too much, go back to just one other child.

Where?

You can play this anywhere! At home, at nursery, at school, in the park, anywhere!

Tips

Make sure it is motivating and fun. Watch closely to see when you think you should finish the activity. Playing it for too long can result in losing interest, getting overexcited and finding it hard to regulate emotions and sensations. 

You need:

An adult and at least two children.

Version one: Everyone runs around in a big circle. After a few seconds, shout, “STOP!”

Freeze in an exaggerated pose, which the children will probably start to copy if you do this every time you stop. After a short time, say, “Go!” and everyone runs again, until you say, “Stop!” And so on. 

Additions: Let the children say stop and go. 

Version two: You need: musical instruments, e.g. shakers, drum, bells, etc.

Everyone chooses one and puts it on the table in front of them. Say, “Hands on the table!” and everyone puts their hands on the table. Look at the children to build anticipation and then after a short time, say, “Go!” and everyone picks up their instrument up and plays it until you say, “Stop!”

Additions:

  • Let the children say go and stop
  • Before you say “Go!” sing so that you build up anticipation – they know are going to say, go, but they don’t know when
  • Increase the length of time that they have to wait for you to say go

3. Activity Three: Puzzles

Why?

  • To develop attention and listening skills
  • To follow adult direction
  • To do an activity with another child or in a small group
  • To have fun!

Who?

With at least one other child – start with one and add another when you think it is appropriate and the child will be able to manage. If it is too much, go back to just one other child.

Where?

You can play this anywhere! At home, at nursery, at school, in the park, anywhere!

Tips

Use inset puzzles (puzzles with pieces that you put in to a board rather than join together to make a picture). Noisy inset puzzles are often popular.

You need:

An adult and at least two children.

Version one: Put puzzle pieces in a bag. Children take it in turns to take a piece out of the bag and put it in the puzzle. Name the pictures, e.g. “Horse!” make the noise, “Neigh!”

Version two: Offer a choice of two pieces, e.g. “Train or plane?” The child tells you what they want, e.g. “Train.” Wait for them to look at you, even if it is a fleeting look, and give the puzzle piece to them.

Version three: Offer each child a choice of two puzzle pieces. When you all have a piece each, run around the room making the noise of the puzzle piece, e.g. “Choo choo choo” (train) “Nee nor nee nor” (fire engine) etc. After a short time, say, “Stop!” Everyone freezes. Then say, “Go!” and they run around again making the noise that goes with their puzzle piece. Do this two or three times, and when you say stop, say, for example, “train in!” and the child with the train puzzle piece puts it in the puzzle, “fire engine in” etc.

Version four: Hand a puzzle piece to one child to put in to the puzzle, say, e.g. “Train in!” then give a piece to the other child and tell them to put it in the puzzle, e.g. “Fire engine in!”

4. Activity Four: Pairs

Why? 

  • To develop attention and listening skills
  • To do an activity with another child or in a small group
  • To have fun! 

Who?

With at least one other child – start with one and add another when you think it is appropriate and the child will be able to manage. If it is too much, go back to just one other child.

Where?

You can play this anywhere! At home, at nursery, at school, in the park, anywhere!

You need:

Pairs cards and a post box, an adult and at least two children.

You do:

Easiest: put three cards on the table face up so you can see the pictures. Make sure 2 of them are the same, i.e. a pair. For example, a monkey, a fish and a monkey. Choose a child to go first and ask them, “Which two are the same?” If they don’t understand, say, “Monkey and monkey? Or monkey and fish?” If the child still can’t find a pair, you say, “Monkey and monkey are the same!” and give the pair to the child to post. Then put out three more cards for the next child and so on.

Harder: Put out at least four cards face down and take it in turns to turn over two cards to find a pair and post them.

Hardest: Put several cards face down and take it in turns to find a pair and post them.

5. Activity Five: It’s snowing! 

Why? 

  • To develop attention and listening skills
  • To do an activity with another child or in a small group
  • To have fun!

Who?

With at least one other child – start with one and add another when you think it is appropriate and the child will be able to manage. If it is too much, go back to just one other child.

Where?

 You can do this on a table or in the kitchen – it can be messy!

You need:  

An adult and at least two children. Toy animals, a tray, icing sugar and a sieve.

Variation one: Take it in turns to take an animal out of a bag, help the children name it, e.g. “Oh, it’s an ______” (e.g. leave a pause for the child to fill and say what the animal is). If they do not know what the animal is, tell them, e.g. “It’s an elephant!” Place the animals on the tray, say, “Look! It’s snowing!” and sieve some icing sugar over the animals. Children take it in turns to do this.

Variation two: Tell each child which animals to make it snow on, so that they listen to and follow your instruction, e.g. “Make it snow on the monkey!” “Make it snow on a lion and a snake!” Use instructions that are appropriate for the child’s understanding of language (not too long, not too short). The children can take it in turns to give the instructions.

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