Is playing with children a challenge?

Is playing with children a challenge?

It can be challenging when a child seems to avoid playing with you. Parents have a desire to connect, especially when their children are not yet talking. So of course, we want to join their world, enjoy what they enjoy, and show that we appreciate them and their interests. However, we may try too hard and unintentionally add perceived pressure.

Some reasons why your child may not like it when you join in, are…

  • Your presence may be distracting because they have to process more information. They have to divide their attention between you, your questions or requests, and their own activity.
  • You may introduce unpredictability and uncertainty. The child does not know what sounds you will make or whether you will interfere with their plan or arrangement. 
  • They may have a different way of playing than you expect. As an adult, playing with toy cars and trucks, you probably want to talk about where they might be driving to and whether they are beeping the horn. But your child may appreciate the sound of rubbing two car wheels together, and how the light reflects off the truck’s bonnet. When you join in, it may cause a communication and connection breakdown. They do not understand your play style yet (so it is not fun for them), and maybe you don’t entirely understand theirs either.

With the best of intentions, adults want to help and guide the child, but we may end up talking too much and not listening enough. It is important to allow moments of silence to simply notice what the child is interested in and what s/he may want to express in the moment. This way, we can follow their lead and not impose our own agenda on their play.

Particularly for autistic children, special interests are intrinsically rewarding but can also be incredibly intense and completely absorbing. We need to be careful to balance between using their interests to build connection, which is essential for language learning, and taking over their play and making it conditional.

TalkiPlay is empowering and enriches play experiences because:

  • The TalkiPlayer says the same words, sounds, songs and sentences when a game is played.
  • the Talki responds in some way, EVERY time it is tapped onto a TalkiTag.
  • TalkiPlay models without expectation, the child doesn't have to do or say anything!
  • The TalkiPlayer will cycle through the same sequence of responses every time.
  • The responses will ALWAYS be accurate if programmed correctly by the caregiver.

The sense of accomplishment from being able to “do it by myself” paired with Talki’s consistent responses is rewarding and motivating.


 “Our special interests are the air that we breathe. When we’re engaged in special interests, we’re living our best lives.”

Autumn Van Kirk

Team leader for a top global tech company 

 (Outstanding Diversity Champion and Out Role Model Paving Intentional Inclusion in Tech)