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Teaching Skills: Cooperative Play During Art Activity

Trumpet Behavioral Health offers help with planning skills activities for use by parents, caregivers, grandparents, teachers and paraprofessionals. Trumpet Behavioral Health is the creator of Insights to Behavior, a web-based solution created for schools to help train educators work with children with autism or other disorders that cause challenging behaviors.

We are now offering a sampling of the skills activities that you can use to help you teach your child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Featured Activity: Cooperative Play During Art Activity

Objective: Plays cooperatively in a structured group
Developmental Area: Social
Method: Behavioral
Category: Constructive Play
Curriculum Level: Advanced
Setting: Group setting

Materials: Tangible reinforcers such as the child’s favorite snack or toy; Structured art activity, along with all the materials needed for the art activity. You will need enough for each child in the group to complete the art project; If the child is non-verbal, you will need a pictograph of the art items and possibly visual instructions on how to make the art project


Before the activity begins, make sure you instruct all the peers in the group the goal of the group and their role in the activity. You will also need to decide on the top three cooperative behaviors you are going to reinforce (e.g., sharing, talking politely to others, using an appropriate voice).

Activity Procedure

  1. Sit next to the child at the table with three to four peers.
  2. Give everybody, including the child, the basic art project items. Place the other art items in the middle of the table. In order to promote sharing and communication, do not place enough items in the middle for every child to have their own item (e.g., if there are four students in the group, only place two scissors in the middle).
  3. Give everybody the instructions on how to complete the art activity. If needed, you can give the child visual instructions on how to make the art project.
  4. Let the children begin the art activity. Give the child any assistance needed throughout to perform the art activity.
  5. Whenever the child or any of the peers performs one of the cooperative behaviors during the art activity, use exaggerated affect to give the child social praise and a tangible reinforcer.
  6. If the child is not spontaneously performing any of the cooperative play behaviors, model for the child the correct behavior, physically or verbally assist the child in carrying out the behavior and then give the child a tangible reinforcer and social praise.
  7. Initially, give the child a tangible reinforcer and social praise every time he/she demonstrates the cooperative behavior. Gradually reduce to intermittently (e.g., giving the reinforcer every other time), and then to randomly (e.g., every three – five times).
  8. Continue reinforcing the three behaviors until the child can perform the behaviors throughout the activity independently.
  9. As the child is successful with the first three cooperative behaviors, add three more cooperative behaviors in which you can reinforce the child for demonstrating during the group activity.

If this is a skills area that you have been wanting to work on with your child, we hope you will benefit from this activity. Watch for more of these activities each month from Trumpet Behavioral Health. And if you have a request for activities for specific skills you’ve been wanting to work on with your child, please let us know via our suggestions form >> click here

CLICK HERE to learn more about Insights to Behavior.

The above recommended activity is not a replacement for behavioral therapy from a qualified Board Certified Behavior Analyst or trained therapist. It is only provided as a recommended activity for you to use in working with your child.
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