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What are playing skills? 


Play is voluntary engagement in self motivated activities that are normally

associated with pleasure and enjoyment. Play may consist of amusing,

pretend or imaginary, constructive, interpersonal (play with others) or

interpersonal (solitary play) interactions. Play is the way that children learn

about the environment, their bodies and their place in the world around



Play is often thought to be frivolous in nature, but can in fact be very

structured or very specific in its goal (e.g. defined games such as sports or

computer games). Play skills are determined by the ability to plan and

sequence play activities (including new activities), problem solve challenges and generalize skills from one activity/toy to another.


What other problems can occur when a child has play difficulties?


When a child has play difficulties, they might also have difficulties with:


  • Emotional development/regulation: which involves the ability to perceive emotion, integrate emotion to facilitate thought, understand emotions and to regulate emotions.


  • Social skills: Determined by the ability to engage in reciprocal interaction with others (either verbally or non-verbally), to compromise with others, and be able to recognize and follow social norms.


  • Pragmatics: The way language is used within social situations.


  • Receptive (understanding) language: Comprehension of language.


  • Expressive (using) language: The use of language through speech, sign or alternative forms of communication to communicate wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.


  • Planning and sequencing: The sequential multi-step task or activity performance to achieve a well-defined result.


  • Pre-language skills: The ways in which we communicate without using words and include things such as gestures, facial expressions, imitation, joint attention and eye-contact.













  • Sensory processing: Accurate registration, interpretation and response to sensory stimulation in the environment and one’s own body.


  • Transitioning: Moving between activities.


  • Self regulation: The ability to obtain, maintain and change one’s emotion, behavior, attention and activity level appropriate for a task or situation in a socially acceptable manner.


  • Behavior: The child’s actions, usually in relation to their environment.


  • Executive functioning: Higher order reasoning and thinking skills.


  • Working memory: The ability to temporarily retain and manipulate information involved in language comprehension, reasoning, and learning new information; and to update this information as change occurs.


Why should I seek therapy if I notice difficulties with play in my child?


Therapeutic intervention to help a child with play difficulties is important to:


  • Improve the child’s ability to interact and play with peers.


  • Encourage the child to engage positively with other children at school and the community.


  • Develop problem solving skills.


  • Develop better receptive and expressive language skills.


  • Participate in sports and other group activities.



What type of therapy is recommended for play difficulties?


Diagnosis alone is NOT the solution. It simply opens the door to getting the help that is needed by arming all involved with the relevant information. 


If your child has difficulties with play, it is recommended they consult an Occupational Therapist or Speech Therapist. The most appropriate professional will be dependent upon what other issues are occurring at the time. .

Play Skills

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