Beginning Level Games

Encouraging social attention, sharing toys, taking turns, playing for longer, enjoying more kinds of activities, learning new words and phrases, and experiencing social play as rewarding and fun.


These games are for children who interact infrequently, mostly on their own terms and have few or no words. The goal of these games is to build social engagement by creating an essential role for the adult thus making the involvement of an adult necessary. These games introduce routines, which are short sequences with just a few steps and involve much more predictability than is found if less structured play. The child can easily understand how the game begins, what happens next and when the game is finished. These games introduce turn-taking activities, and the concept of a sequence of activities with a few predictable steps. All these games have interesting sensory experiences which serve as a reinforcement for participating. We often start with a Route Game or a Game with No Words.


Route Games

In this game, the child moves from one location to another. The adult adds structure: 1) Clear beginning: Say Ready, Set, Go and then run 2) Clear ending: Fall into a soft beanbag chair. See more Route Games for Beginners.

Games with No Words

In this game, a child is invited to play a simple game that just involves a new and interesting way of playing with an inset puzzle. The video shows how to demonstrate this game to the child. See more about Games with No Words.

2. Beginners: These games are just a little more complex than those above and include a few more words but all games on this page can be made a bit more complex or a bit more simple as needed and may be fun for children who are in the beginning stages of learning to play and communicate.

Calling Games

This is a Demonstration Video showing how an adult play partners can present a calling game with an inset puzzle. For more tips on playing calling games: Calling Games

Tips and Strategies for children who are just beginning to play social games:

-It is usually best to play with just one play partner at this stage of development. A sibling or classmate will often add confusion or dominate and it becomes difficult to keep the game simple and predictable. For teachers or parents who must include other children, let the more able children demonstrate the game first, and make each child's turn clear with a visual support showing whose turn it is or by saying the child's name. Example: "Andy's Turn!"

-Making a clear beginning, sequence, and end to the game will often help a child stay in the game. Adding visual supports such as a visual showing a photo of the toy before starting. Keeping the toys in a clear bag so that the child can see that there are only ten items and then ending the game after the ten items are done makes for a clear sequence and ending. Sometimes, just drawing five squares and crossing out a square after each turn and ending after five turns will allow a child to understand that this game will not last forever. Don't be tempted to extend the game even if it is going well, but if you include a visual choice board so that your child can choose which game to play by selecting a photo of the game, then you can play the game again if it is chosen.

Visual Support

This is a magic tool for helping children stay in an activity. Draw some squares and then cross them off, one-by-one as the child participates to let the child know when you will be finished the game (or activity).

It is called a Duration Chart when you do NOT cross off squares after each turn but rather just cross them off randomly to give the child a sense of moving toward the end. *A Duration chart lets you move faster through a game if it is not going well and slower if the game is clearly fun for the child and you want to extend it. When you are finished, say aloud "All Done!" and cross of the final square.

Sharing Toys

In this video, Dad is using a strategy called "Piece by Piece" where he is providing toys one at a time. His son likes popping pieces out of a puzzle square which has similar satisfying feeling as popping bubble wrap.

Maintaining Control of the Toys: The dad above is helping his son perceive dad as the source of cool things . If he had dumped the toys on the floor between them and then tried to play with his son, dad would have been perceived as interfering and become a source of irritation. In addition, there is a natural moment where his son shifts attention to his father and during that moment, his father can teach his son the names of the letters or shapes. There would be less reason to attend to what his father says if his son already had all the toys in his possession. In fact, talking might have been perceived as an interruption in the play.