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Taking Turns - How to teach it to your child

Is your child snatching toys from other children when playing?

Are they upset when a child is already using a toy they want?

Difficulties with taking turns might be a reason why your child struggles to attend birthday parties or doesn’t make many friends at daycare. Teaching them how to take turns while playing can fix this!

The solution might lie on the communication side rather than on the behavioural side. Your child might just not know how to ask for their turn. They might not have the skills to let another child know they are currently playing with the toy. Or, they want the toy and don't want anyone else to play with it.

Two brothers playing together

It is possible to practice taking turns in a control environment and start small.

Here is the protocol to teach "taking turns":

The aim of this exercise is for your child to request a toy they want and then wait for approximately 1 minute (this time can increase as your child masters the skill).


You will need a toy that both children want to play with so that they have to wait and take turns. A waiting visual card can also be helpful to remind your child when they are waiting.


You will also need a visual timer like a stopwatch, your phone, or an hourglass to set a clear signal for when it’s time to “switch” turns.

Before to start, explain the activity to the children.

If the other child has the toy, prompt your child to say “Can I have a turn?” or "My turn" depending on your child's verabl level.

Prompt the other child to say “In a minute”.

Set the timer for 1 minute.

Guide your child to play with another item and still engage in the play with the peer.

When the timer goes off, give a 5 second countdown and prompt the child to hand the item to your child.

Give positive praise to both children for waiting and taking turns.

Now switch roles and have the other child ask your child for a turn and prompt your child to say “In a minute”.

Young boy hands over a toy to his friend

If the child doesn’t follow the instructions, provide gentle physical and gestural guidance to help them follow. Then, keep playing, taking turns and HAVE FUN!

Practice this a few times and regularly throughout the week to help your child to get used to using these phrases “In a minute” and “Can I have a turn?” instead of snatching or becoming upset. As you notice your child developing the skills, fade out your prompting and guidance so you are not as involved. If needed, jump in to provide a prompt every now and then.

As you continue to practice, the time the children have to wait to take turn will sowly be increased from 30 seconds to 1 minute, 2 minutes 5 minutes and longer periods of time. The use of the timer and prompting will also be faded away.

Here is a video demonstrating how to teach a child taking turns.

If this looks all good but you would like additional guidance to teach your child how to take turns, book a complimentary Discovery Call with our Board Certified Behavior Analyst!


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