Independent Play


Play with at least three different age-appropriate toys independently for at least five minutes using the toys appropriately.

Criterion for Mastery 

Independent for five consecutive days

Data Collection Procedures

Level of Independence

1. Maximum Prompting: Needed continuous prompting during the one-minute time period.

2. Moderate Prompting: Needed 3-4 prompts during the one minute time period.

3. Minimal Prompting: Needed 1-2 prompts during the one minute time period.

4. Independent

Teaching Procedures

1. Select at least three different age-appropriate toys based on the child’s strengths and interests.

2. Give the child a choice of two toys. If the child doesn’t choose independently, use prompting/fading procedures to teach the child to select one.

3. To teach the child to play independently with a variety of toys, you will need to first teach the child how to use and enjoy different toys by using modeling/request imitation. For example, if you think the child could learn to enjoy playing with Tinker Toys, but the child avoids them, you can sit with the child and show the child how to play and provide opportunities for the child to imitate your actions.

4.  Once the child demonstrates the ability to play with a toy with your facilitation, begin to gradually fade yourself out. This means you may first fade out by just sitting with the child, but not playing. Then you can move away from the child but stay in the same room.

4. If the child discontinues play, provide positive redirection using prompting/fading procedures. This can be done by providing modeling/request imitation again or by providing physical prompting (ex. Use your body to direct the child back to the area), verbal prompting (ex. “Play some more. I want to see what you can make.”), or with a gesture (ex. Point to the toy). You may need to join the play again and then fade yourself once you feel the child can continue without your support.

5.  Eventually, you should be able to leave the room, and the child will continue to play for at least five minutes. However, initially you may need to return every 30 seconds or so to keep the child engaged in the play. You don’t necessarily have to say or do anything, but just making yourself present may be enough to keep the child playing. Sometimes if you provide too much verbal praise or physical attention, the child will stop playing because it breaks their engagement with the toys.

6.  Use shaping to gradually increase the length of time the child is expected to play independently and adjust the goal accordingly.  You can also change the goal by increasing the number of different toys the child is expected to play with.


Note:  Some children need the goal changed to less than five minutes when first learning how to play independently.

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