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Language and Communication Developing turn taking using sensory toys  This resource has been viewed by a moderator.


Turn taking is a key skill for developing language and social communication skills. Turn taking can be carried out in a variety of ways, right from when your child is born. These activities focus on using sensory toys and supporting your child to develop an understanding of taking turns. Click here for information sheet - What is turn taking?

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Early years skill:Personal, Social and Emotional
Early years typical range:0-11m
P-scales/Curriculum skill:PSHE and Citizenship
P-scales/Curriculum level:P2ii
TAP skill:Social Interaction
TAP level:TAP12
Pre/Nat. Curriculum Area:Anticipation
Pre/Nat. Curiculum Standard:Engagement
Section:Early Years (0-5yrs) info; Primary (5-11yrs) info
Activity/strategy name and materials required How to do the activity Key principles for doing the activity and comments
Sensory Suitcase

Use a small box or bag to collect toys which target different sensory areas


Auditory (noisy toys) toys (rattles, squeakers, shakers, musical items, drums etc.)

Visual toys (flags, streamers, Slinkies, spinners, bubbles, flashing items, torches, pop-up toys, windmills etc.)

Tactile toys (toys that feel different) (balls of different textures to squeeze, brushes of different textures to be tickled with, materials e.g. velvet, sandpaper, feathers, pots of rice/macaroni to feel, Play dough to squeeze/cut )

Scented toys (play dough, Plasticine, some rubber toys)

1. Collect some toys from each of the sensory categories described.

2. Store the toys in a container which you use only for this specific activity and is otherwise stored away from children.

3. Find a quiet comfortable place to work either at a table or on the floor. Try to make sure the child cannot easily run off or get distracted.

4. Make a show of shaking the suitcase and seeming happy about the approaching activity.

5. Take out two toys from different sensory categories and place them in front of the child - note which category of item the child chooses/reaches for and put the other item back in the suitcase.

6. Allow the child a short time to enjoy the item chosen then say 'Your name's turn' (e.g. "Mary's turn") and gently but firmly take the item for your turn.

7. Use the toy for a short time then offer it the child again. Say 'Child's name's turn'.

8. Repeat a few times but stop before the child gets bored.

9. Start the process again by offering the child a choice of toys from two different sensory categories and then follow the turn taking routine.

10. Continue with the activity for approximately 10 minutes - stop before the child gets bored.

11. Store the sensory suitcase in a secure place until the next session.

These activities are based on a child's sensory preferences. Some children love visual toys but are frightened of noisy (auditory) toys. Accept these preferences and work with the sensory areas the child is comfortable with.

Some children will choose some kinds of noisy toys and reject others or show fear when presented with others. Some children are frightened of feathers but love being tickled with a shaving brush. Experiment and observe!

Sensory preferences can change over time as well!

Keep the activity fun and show that you are enjoying it too!

Make the activity time limited so that it stays special.

Do the activity regularly and change the items used from time to time.

Create Colourful Patterns

Use a selection of the following:

Paint pots and brushes, felt tips, computer painting programme, pots with different coloured bits of paper to stick and a sheet of paper.

1. Sit next to the child and help them choose a colour to work with. You may need to use hand over hand to start with.

2. When the child has had a turn say 'Your name's turn' and take a turn to colour/paint or stick something.

3. Finish your turn and say 'Child's name's turn'.

4. Bring the activity to a close when your child give your signals that they are finished.

Messy Play

Use, for example, one of the following sets of items:

Sand tray with spades, pots etc.

Water tray with pots, sieves, pourers etc

Rice tray with pots and pourers etc

1. Sit near the child and offer items for the child to dig with, pour with etc.

2. When the child has had a turn say 'Your name turn' and take the item the child was using to do a similar action. Finish your turn and say 'Child's name's turn' and let the child choose the toy to dig or pour with.

3.Bring the activity to a close when your child give your signals that they are finished.


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