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Becoming a Magical Play Partner for your child. (Part 3) Sensory Social Activities

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Always remember that your praise and attention are the most magical ingredients when becoming your child’s magical play partner.

Welcome to part 3 in our Magical Play Partner blog series. In this article we will focus on Sensory Social activities, what they are, why they are important and simple ways to ensure optimal Speech, Language, Communication and Social-Emotional development.  

In Part 1 of our Magical Play Partner blog series, we talked about some tips for becoming your child’s magical play partner.

In Part 2 we talked about how to develop Joint Attention Skills; a key building block when promoting optimal Speech, Language, Communication and Social-Emotional Development.

Part 3 , below will talk about using Sensory Social Play activities to promote Speech, Language, Communication and Social-Emotional Development.

In Part 4 we  will talk about how Object Focused activities promote Speech, Language, Communication and Social-Emotional Development.


There are two types of Joint Activities to support joint attention skills you can do when playing with your child; Sensory Social Activities and Object Focused Joint Activities. The focus of any joint activity play is the social exchange and the fun and engaging way you interact with your child.

This article will focus on Sensory Social Activities, what they are and how to encourage social communication when engaging your child in sensory social activities during magical play partner time.

What is a Sensory Social Activity ?

A Sensory Social Activity/Routine is when two people, are engaged in the same activity with ongoing back and forth sensory and social interaction; for example:

  • Imitating each other
  • Communicating with words/sounds
  • Gesture
  • Facial Expression
  • Turn-Taking
  • Building on each other’s activity.

Sensory Social Activities focus on building the following skills:

  • Social Skills
  • Communication and Language Skills
  • Imitation Skills

The focus of the joint sensory social activity is social exchange and interaction. The sensory piece , includes the  physical interactions that are part of the activity.

Sensory Social Activities include:

  • Lap Games “Peek a Boo”, “Up/Down”.
  • Songs with motions “Itsy Bitsy Spider” “Wheels on the Bus”.
  • Floor Songs: “Ring around the Rosy”.
  • Finger Play “Creepy Fingers”.
  • Movement Routines: “Airplane, Swing, Chases, Hide and Seek!

Prior to engaging in any Sensory Social Activities, remember that Joint attention skills are also important milestones skills to consider.

Check out our article on Joint Attention for more information on how to develop Joint Attention skills.

The goals of sensory social activities are to:

  • Draw your child’s attention to your social cues: eye contact; facial expressions, anticipatory movements.
  • Develop your child’s awareness of facial expressions and ability to share emotional facial expressions with each other
  • Increase your child’s motivation to initiate, respond to and engage in social interactions through eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, sounds and words.

See below for 3 Top Tips to consider for increasing social communication during Sensory Social Play Activities:

  1. Develop Imitation Skills:

Teaching your child to imitate other people is very important when supporting your child’s early milestone developmental journey. Children learn by imitating other people and other children in their lives. We call this having an imitative repertoire. Imitation milestone skills can be identified in the myToddler-Talk passport.

See below for some simple strategies to encourage your child to imitate.

Observe what your child is doing , for example, when you see your child;  

  • Smiling
  • Clapping hands
  • Doing any part of “head shoulders, knees and toes”
  • Using gestures along with any of the sensory social activities outlined above
  • Making any sounds

When you see your child doing or saying something that is possible for you to imitate during magical play partner time, feel free to  imitate what they are doing. Imitating your child will build a sense of give and take, back and forth, early conversation and social interaction.

The next step is to prompt your child to imitate you. To do this:

First, engage you child's interest by ensuring  that you are doing something or that you have something that your child is interested in.

Gently engage their attention, and do something you know that they like (for example, clap hands, or bang a drum, or sing a rhyme they like with actions)  

Say “you do” in a fun light-hearted tone.

It is not always necessary to say, “you do ”, your child might imitate you naturally.

If your child is not yet ready to imitate you can always use a prompt to help. (Check out our Step up Step Down Article for more information on how to prompt)

Once you notice that your child can imitate you, be sure to encourage them to imitate you regularly.

The types of things that you can encourage your child to imitate are;

  • Sounds /Words
  • Gestures
  • Facial Expressions

Always remember to balance your requests to imitate with you imitating them. Remember this is a social exchange and requires ongoing “give and take” and “back and forth”

  • 2. Practice Turn-Taking

Learning how to take turns is a wonderful way to develop social skills and appropriate playful interactions. You can encourage your child to take turns regularly during magical play partner time.

When engaged in a joint sensory social activity you can start to encourage turn-taking using the simple instructions below.

Watch closely for a natural opportunity. (For example, during incey wincey spider, you can take turns being the spider).

Say “my turn” and do your favourite  piece very quickly.

Immediately  after that say “your turn” and allow them to do their favourite piece.

You can regularly encourage turn-taking during magical play partner time.

Remember that when you start teaching turn taking, be sure to allow your child to take their turn promptly and allow them to spend longer on their turn than you do on yours. 

You can build on your child’s activity by commenting on what your child is doing, for example;

“You are building a house” “Let’s add another room”.

“You are driving the bus”  “Let's sing to our friends on the bus”.

You can also build on your child’s activity by expanding on your child’s language, for example;

Your child says “ball”, “Yes that’s a big red ball”.

Your child says “doggie” “Yes that’s a small fluffy doggie”.

Please read our article on Interaction Skills, for more information on building interaction skills

For more information on playful activities you can do with your child