Interactive Play

What is Interactive Play?

Interactive play is a type of play where the child is playing directly with another person, such as the adult. They are usually physical in nature. This can include:

  • Big actions such as chasing, catching or spinning around 
  • Small actions like tickling, giving high-fives or fist-bumps
  • Songs, like ‘Twinkle-twinkle Little Star’ and ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’

Mother playing peek-a-boo with her baby

Why is Interactive Play important?

Interactive Play requires a child focusing their attention on another person, not an object. This teaches the child that it is fun and rewarding to be with others. They start to build a social emotional connection with others, and also learn to reciprocate and respond to others.


Being able to connect and respond to others is a pre-requisite for future stages of play, like Associative and Cooperative Play, where children start to properly play with other children, be it in toys, game or sports.

When can Interactive Play be taught?

From the moment the child is born!

Interactive Plays with Babies

While a newborn baby may not be so ready to start playing chase and tag, there are a million other ways to start playing interactively.


1. Sing to them

Not only does this type of interactive play strengthen a parent’s bond with their baby from Day One, it is also a natural way to encourage eye contact and strengthen social emotional reciprocity. 


Feel free to download this list of popular nursery rhymes and songs. Remember, nursery rhymes from one’s own country and culture also count!

Rhymes can also be incorporated naturally into a child’s daily activities, such as 

  • “This is the way we splash and splash” while in the bath, and 
  • “This is the way we go up and down, up and down” when playing on the seesaw

Repeating the same songs but replacing the words based on the activity can help children pick up words to build their vocabulary.

Interactive Plays with Young Children

Other games that can be easily played with little children include peek-a-boo or just making silly faces and sounds. Children are motivated by the cause-and-effect nature of interactive plays.

The ABA principle of operant conditioning states when a behaviour happens, and there is a positive consequence, the child will want to repeat that behaviour again.


When a child does something, and the adult reacts in a funny way, the child will want the adult to do it again and again!


This will strengthen the child’s and adult’s socio-emotional connection, which one can observe through the child’s eye contact, smiles, laughter and even vocalisations.

Interactive Plays with Older Children

For older children, the potential for interactive play only expands even more.


  1. ‘Big’ plays:
    – Holding hands and running
    – Piggybacks
    – Sleep and wake up game
    – Push and pull
    – Blanket fortresses
  2. ‘Little’ plays in between learning at the table:
    – High-fives
    – Tickling
  3. Songs:
    – Ring-a-rosie
    – Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
    – Wheels on the Bus

There are many more ways to play interactively with a child besides the examples above. Some children may even have a family-favourite, be it a flying kiss goodbye or a secret handshake. Continue to keep it fun!


For adults who may not be used to playing with children like that – pick any one of the examples shown in the lesson video and start with that first.

Your Turn

Pick 1 – 3 Interactive Plays to play with your child today!

Interactive Play Ideas