Play and Socials skills are the foundations of mature learning skills that require attention and concentration, appropriate behaviour, effective language skills and the ability to plan and sequence physical skills (e.g. games) and to anticipate what might happen next. Without these skills, play skills are few and repetitive (or bossy) and social skills are underdeveloped resulting in social isolation. Both can also contribute to learning delays.

Occupational and Speech Therapists are skilled in supporting children to develop play and social interaction skills, including turn taking, anticipating what’s coming next and reading facial and body gestures to help read ‘social cues’.

Children who struggle with play and social skills can have difficulties with:


  • Attention and concentration
  • Staying engaged in one activity or with one person
  • Expressing and/or adjusting their emotions to match the activity or environment
  • Understanding consequences of their actions
  • Working independently and as a result often interrupts adults for ‘help’


  • Playing with a range of toys/play
  • Independent play and often prefers/requires an adult to help them begin and sustain play
  • Following the lead of others in play and may appear bossy, telling others how to play (because they don’t know how to vary the play themselves).
  • Playing with toys as they are intended and may have a tendency to up-end toys on the floor to look like they’re playing but not necessarily use them, or appear destructive with toys
  • Taking turns/sharing

Social Skills

  • Entering a group or play with others as they don’t know how to politely join in and can appear ‘rude’
  • Engaging in a two way conversation and instead speaks ‘at you’ in a conversation rather than ‘with you’
  • Reading other people’s feelings based on their verbal and non-verbal cues
  • Maintaining a topic of conversation and instead provide irrelevant comments during a conversation
  • Making and maintaining/keeping friendships
  • Coping with winning and losing in a game

Other Useful Resources

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