Stay, Play, Talk Procedures

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Stay, Play, Talk is a peer-mediated intervention designed to increase the social interactions of preschool children. Typically developing confederate peers are taught three component skills: (a) stay near their partner, (b) engage with the partner and (c) talk with the partner by commenting on the play activities, and responding to their partners communicative efforts.1 The play sessions can take place during normal classroom activities (e.g., free play, centers, recess). Stay, Play, Talk has been found to produce lasting improvements in children’s social interactions.1

Pre-Instruction Decisions

The following decisions should be made prior to teaching:

  1. EBIP_teaching children outdoors_physical activity_2Who will the target students be? Stay, Play, Talk has been found to be successful with preschool children with a variety of disabilities, including autism. Target children generally had lower social skills than their peers, but did use some language to communicate. Children will be more likely to benefit from Stay, Play, Talk if they are imitative and have can understand simple language such as “stay near your friend”.
  2. Which students will act as peer confederates? Although you may have a child who could benefit from this intervention, its success depends upon the availability of confederate peers. Try to select children who exhibit age appropriate play and social skills, as well as high levels of compliance to teacher directions.
  3. Which children will be grouped together? When grouping your target child with a peer confederate, consider the children’s social history, and shared interests. If low rates of attendance are a concern, training extra peers may be advantageous. Previous researchers have grouped target peers with one to two peer buddies.
  4. When will peer training occur? Peer training may require 1-2 instructors, and will likely require multiple sessions. Consider conducting the sessions with the target child to allow the peer buddies to practice with the child they will be working with.
  5. During which activities will Stay, Play, Talk occur? The Division of Early ChildhoodEBIP_stay play talk_5 (DEC) recommends that instruction occur in naturalistic settings and routines across the school day. Consider embedding Stay, Play, Talk sessions into times during the day when children are naturally playing together (e.g., free play, centers, recess).
  6. What prompts will adults use? Consider using visuals associated with corresponding skills during peer training that can be referred to during sessions to remind the peer confederates what to do. Establish a consistent manner in which teachers will react when the children engage appropriately (e.g., verbal praise).
  7. What will I do if the peer confederate doesn’t stay, play, or talk? Establish a criterion for when prompts will be given (e.g., 60s without a peer interaction). If prompts to engage are frequent, consider retraining the peer confederates or offering rewards for participation.
  8. How often will Stay, Play, Talk occur? For maximum effectiveness, consider conducting sessions at least once a day.
  9. Who else might be present during a session? Plan for what the rest of the class will be doing, who will be collecting data, and what responsibilities the rest of the staff will have. It might be easier to initially have the target child and peer confederate(s) in a designated area, without additional peers. After children have become proficient, it may be beneficial for other children to be present.
  10. How will other children requesting to join a session be managed? Allowing varying numbers of peers to be present may affect the integrity of the intervention. As a classroom team, develop a strategy to assist in keeping non-participants engaged elsewhere or develop rules about when they can join (e.g., after 10 min).


After making the decisions above and EBIP_stay play talk_1completing the Stay, Play, Talk Instruction Worksheet, you are ready to train all children (target children and peer confederates)!

  1. Introduce each skill (e.g., Stay, Play, Talk) one at a time.
    – Stay: teach the children to stay near their buddy
    – Play: teach the children to play with their buddy, or engage with similar toys in proximity to their buddy
    – Talk: teach the children to say their buddies name, gain the buddies attention and ask play related questions (e.g., play suggestions, comments on child or peer’s play actions, questions, compliments, sharing)
  2. Associate each skill with a simple visual you can refer back to when implementing.
  3. Model each skill for the children, and allow them to practice.
  4. Provide positive and constructive feedback for the children (e.g, I like how you are staying near your buddy! Remember to ask them questions).
  5. Allow confederate peers and target children to practice each skill with their partner(s).


Once you have trained all children, you are ready to implement a session of Stay, Play, Talk! This intervention is likely to work best when sessions are conducted regularly (i.e., daily) and when all prosocial behaviors are reinforced.

  1. Set up all materials, including play materials, visual reminders, reinforcers, and data collection materials. Have everything set up before the children arrive.
  2. Give your peer buddies a reminder of the expectations.
  3. Provide prompts as necessary.


  1. EBIP_stay play talk_4My peer buddy doesn’t pay attention, respond to prompts, or engages in problem behaviors. Consider reinforcing components of Stay, Play Talk (e.g., staying near peer, engaging with peer) by providing an identified reinforcer when the peer is engaging appropriately.
  2. My confederate peer doesn’t consistently follow one or more of the Stay, Play, Talk component skills. Consider providing more frequent prompts, either verbally or by referring to your visuals. If your child does not respond to the prompts, consider retraining.

Data sheets:
Stay, Play, Talk Instruction Worksheet

Where can I find additional information regarding Stay, Play, Talk?

  1. Kohler, F. W., Greteman, C., Raschke, D., & Highnam, C. (2007). Using a buddy skills package to increase the social interactions between a preschooler with autism and her peers. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 27(3), 155-163.
  2. English, K. Goldstein, H., Shafer, K., Kaczmarek, L. (1997). Promoting interactions among preschoolers with and without disabilities: Effects of a buddy skills-training program. Exceptional Children, 63(2), 229-243.

To cite this page (APA 6th edition):

  • Ledford, J.R., Osborne, K., & Chazin, K.T. (2016). Stay, play, talk procedures. In Evidence-based instructional practices for young children with autism and other disabilities. Retrieved from