How to train up children’s interests in toys and games other than food?

My boy is only interested in food and snacks as reinforcement.
How can I train up his interests in toys and games instead of food?

One of the deficits of children with ASD is limited interests. It is a typical problem that many parents or teachers have asked for help.

Here is the number 1 rule when expanding the child’s interests: don’t give up!!!


Here are some ways you can try:

    introduce new or neutral toys /activities while the child is having his/her favorite toys/activities. For example, if your child is only interested in food, and you want your child enjoys watching video (i.e Mickey Mouse). When you do pairing you can prepare your child’s favorite snack while watching Mickey Mouse at the same time, so your child will link his favorite snack with Mickey Mouse.
  2. Increase and provide intensive exposure opportunities for those new or neutral toys/activities
    For example, if you want your child likes listening to songs, you may turn on the music whenever your child is at home no matter what he/she needs to do. Likewise, if you want your child likes to play remote car, you may play the remote car next to your child very often i.e 10 times per day, to increase exposure to those new toys that you’d like to sell.
    Very often when children who are lacking of interests to a wide range of toys/activities, it is because they don’t know how to operate the toys, and therefore they don’t find the toys/activities fun to play with. Thus, we need to start teaching them step by step on how to play with different toys.
    For example, if we want to teach playdoh, we may teach them rolling playdoh into a ball/sausage, press the playdoh to make it a plate, put the cutter/mold onto the playdoh to make a shape, using a knife to cut playdoh into smaller pieces, etc. Teach them various ways to play with the toys in fun and exciting ways!
  4. MAKE IT FUN!!!
    When you start introducing a neutral activity, make your toys FUN to play with. Your child will find it fun and interesting when you use a dramatic fun and happy tone. Try making sound effects or play in silly ways to attract your child to look at it and try playing with it.
    When you are introducing a new toy, your child might engage into some undesirable behaviors or might want to leave. If this is the case, you should focus on showing your child the fun ways to play with the toys instead of stopping those undesirable behaviors, unless your child is hurting himself/herself. If your child leaves, you can follow him and continue to show him the toys, thus no demand on your child to stay with you or to behave well. Let your child experience the happy, positive experiences when you are introducing the toys/activities.

Information provided by: Ms. Teri Mok (Autism Partnership Senior Case Supervisor)

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