Figuring out how to join a game or group activity is a skill that may not come easily for children with learning and attention issues. Some kids may feel too nervous to join in. Others may barge in without considering how their behavior might disrupt the game or annoy the other players.
A great way to begin helping your child learn how to join a game or group activity is to sit together at a playground and watch other kids. Point out and discuss the different things you see kids doing to join an activity successfully. Then teach your child how to do each of these four steps: Stop, Look, Ask and Join.
- Stop. When your child sees kids doing something interesting, get him to visualize a stop sign. Talk about why it’s important not to jump right in. Explain how it will help him to pause and assess the situation. This step is especially important if your child has issues with impulsivity.
- Look. Teach your child how to decide if the kids look friendly. Talk about facial expressions and body language. Are the kids smiling or nodding at him? Or do they seem to be ignoring him or turning away from him? One way to work on this at home is to turn the volume down during your child’s favorite TV show and ask him to predict what the characters will do next based on their body language.
- Ask. If your child decides the kids look friendly, the next step is for him to ask one of them if he can play. Help your child understand that at times it may be necessary to wait until a game is finished before he can participate. Explain that when this happens, it’s not because the other children do not want to play with him. Some games have rules that make it hard to add another player at certain times.
- Join. If the other kids say it’s OK for your child to join in, then it’s time to smile and have fun. You can help your child successfully interact with other kids by playing popular games at home so he builds skills and is familiar with the rules.
Go over these steps frequently. Using role-play at home will let your child work on these social skills in a setting where there are no consequences if he messes up. Practicing together will give him the best chance for success. It’s also a good idea to explore other common playground problems and tips on how to avoid them.