Advanced Games

For Children with Sentence Level Language Skills


General Learning Goals

  • to intentionally interact and communicate for more reasons, with more success, and with more pleasure

  • to communicate using words, gestures, eye-gaze, facial expressions and body language

  • to imitate what others do including actions, words, melody of voice, and personal style

  • to enjoy playing and interacting with others for longer periods of time

Managing Attention

  • to shift attention rapidly between people, activities and toys

  • to pay attention when routines change

  • to be increasingly aware of what a play partner is looking at, doing, feeling, and trying to accomplish

  • to demonstrate awareness of and interest in playful social interaction

Initiating and Making Choices

  • to make a choice between two or more options when provided with pictures and/or given a verbal choice

  • to initiate games with actions, words, or pictures

  • to choose between two or more options


  • to understand and use a core set of important words and phrases (scripted language)

  • to understand pictures as representing activities, emotions and people

  • to understand and use nonverbal gestures such as head shakes and nods, waves, and pointing

  • to understand No and Yes as meaning different things at different times

  • to communicate the desire to end an activity in an appropriate way like saying "all done"

  • to protest with words, facial expression, and tone of voice

  • to request with words, gestures, pictures, or eye gaze

  • to call others

  • to greet others

  • to say bye bye

  • to ask for help

  • to tell others what to do with words

  • to comprehend & follow verbal directions

  • to complain with words

  • to remember with words

  • to plan with words

  • to communicate playfulness with facial expression, body proximity, eye gaze, and tone of voice

Managing Emotions

  • to accept comfort from trusted caretakers

  • to seek comfort from trusted caretakers

  • to stay emotionally regulated (calm) when others say No

  • to stay emotionally regulated (calm) when unexpected things happen

  • to persist when appropriate

  • to not persist (let things go) when appropriate

  • to recognize and name facial expressions for happy, sad, mad, scared, and okay.

  • to use words or other communication strategies to calm after becoming upset

  • to join into playful activities with playfulness


  • to follow routines within games and activities

  • to communicate the desire to end an activity

  • to take turns

  • to move together with others and/or in response to the movement of others

  • to join into playful activities with playfulness

  • to accept different roles within play activities

  • to allow others to share control of materials

  • to allow others to make changes and add ideas in pretend play

  • to offer ideas or changes to a game when playing

  • to willingly change a game when play partner desires to do so


  • to use toys in the way they were intended to be used

  • to pretend an item is a different items

  • to pretend to be a different person/animal/object

  • to use toys in a variety of different ways

  • to intentionally not use toys as intended

  • to follow routines within games and activities

  • to use add new ideas into play inspired by things that are happening in one's own life

  • to play beside others who are playing

  • to play with others in highly structured routines

  • to play with others in unstructured play activities

Vocabulary that can be taught using Zimbos includes: Upside down, frontwards, backwards, turn it around, put it next to, on top of, underneath, in a line, far away, close to...


This is a video model that was used to introduce the game. In this case, Zimbos was used as a Maker Game, where each person took a turn choosing a piece and building the structure. We used a Choice Board that we created as a visual support and this made a construction or building game kind of like a board game and children are more used to taking turns with board games. This video also shows how to introduce the language that we often taught with this game.

For many children, co-creating or co-building anything is difficult, and it is easier to start with something like this Zimbo's Game Case-in-point, co-building with Lego Blocks is terrible for most children because most children are used to constructing with blocks alone where they can control the entire process. Zimbos, modified in this way, has just enough blocks, just enough novelty, just enough structure that most children could co-build with another child or an adult without becoming frustrated. Later, we might try to teach children to co-build a Lego structure or draw a picture together.

Refrigerator Magnet Language Game...more

Location prepositions are the language goal in this game. This child is also learning to take turns as both the verbal direction giver and the verbal direction follower. Many children with ASD have programs that are weighted toward the child learning to follow directions and need more practice telling others what to do.

Mixed up animals...more

This game teaches children to be think flexibly, play with words, and use toys creatively.

HOT! Great RDI Game! The most simple version of this game is just two chairs facing each other and one person yelling HOT! and then both people switching chairs. This as a three person version.

Moving Chairs Games...more

Endless variations of this game are possible, including a version described below called HOT! My Rule Is.....

MY RULE IS... Here is the way this game is played:

1) Everyone takes a chair in a circle of chairs

2) The Rule Maker says "My rule is, when I say the name of an animal, everyone move chairs. Foot, clock, book, zebra!"

3) Everyone shakes their head No, when the word is not an animal and quickly moves to a new chair when they hear the name of an animal.

4) A new Rule Maker is chosen and says "My rule is, when I scratch my nose, everyone move chairs. (then flaps like a bird, stomps their feet, wiggles their fingers, sticks out their tongue, and then scratches their nose!

5) Everyone moves and a new Rule Maker is chosen......

Photo by Daisy Anderson from

This Maker Game that involves creating Paper Bag Masks and naming the characters: Happy, Sad, Scared, Angry or Mad, Surprised, and OK.

Pretending Emotions: A Maker Game

Children at this stage are ready for Maker Activity and Pretend Play. Click here to see more Maker Games

Children with autism need to spend time exploring their own and other peoples emotional states but finding the balance where the activity is engaging and not emotional abuse is tricky. Some children are just very sensitive to expressions of emotion--especially negative emotion. Helping a child learn emotional regulation skills (not becoming overwhelmed by the experience of emotions) can be effectively addressed though play. Even then, adults need to be sensitive and always ready to back down the emotional intensity a notch or a revisit game on another day.

Don't Bite Alligator!...more

This little alligator's mock threat serves to create a context for sharing emotions. We share anticipation; we are mock frightened together. Shared giggles dissipate anxiety when he bites. Shared mock indignation next as we scold the alligator for his wicked ways.

Some children are too scared by this alligator to enjoy playing this game so then the alligator helps the child learn to say "Go Away!" It is remarkable how many children, after learning that they can order the alligator to leave, end up asking for him to stay and eventually can play the game of pushing the alligator's teeth down till he snaps his mouth closed.

Monster Monster Please Come Out!...more

In this small group game, each player gets a turn to be the monster and the other players decide how to call out the Monster who is hiding. They call in a loud voice, a quiet voice, a silly voice and so on. When the Monster comes out, everyone screams.

Using a Visual Schedule...more

Transitioning through games is easy when using a visual schedule. See this example of ending one game and starting another with this visual support.

Using Musical Supports...more

In this video, a therapy session is ended with a Goodbye Song. Many children have trouble ending a play session where they are enjoying themselves. Having a clear ending routine like this song makes the transition so much easier. Most the parents at my clinic began to use this song when it was hard for their child to leave other places like the library, the store, grandma's house.

Bop and Jump and Trampoline Games!

Looking for ways to make jumping on the trampoline a social game was a challenge but it was possible! See more Trampoline Games.