Understanding Why Children Cry After Playtime | Butterfly Learnings

Date of Publishing:   

20 July, 2023


Behavioral Challenges



Why Children Cry After Playtime: Understanding and Responding

Playtime is a very important part of a child's life because it gives them the opportunity to have fun, explore their creativity and imagination, interact with others, and most importantly it is an unstructured activity i.e. the child has the freedom to play the way he wants. 


As per your child's schedule, the play needs to end. They have to move ahead to other tasks, like studying, having dinner or bedtime, etc. It can be challenging for some children to transition back to their daily routines.


The child is playing with toys. You go towards her and take the toy away from his hands and suddenly he starts crying, whining, throwing tantrums, rolling on the floor, and engaging in other problem behaviors.


A common problem which parents face. It is not uncommon for children to cry when their playtime comes to an end, and this behavior can be distressing for both the child and the parent or caregiver. Their biggest concern is why does the child cry after playing?! 

So, why does the child cry after playtime? 

There are multiple reasons why children when their playtime ends. For instance, they may be enjoying themselves and do not want to stop playing. Alternatively, they may be feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, and playtime offers a reprieve from their emotions. 


Additionally, some children may be struggling with separation anxiety, and the end of playtime triggers their fear of being away from their caregiver. 


The reason is the child doesn't have skills to deal with this situation. As parents, we assume that this skill might be present in the child. We must understand that skills are not automatically learnt; we must teach them.


What should parents do?


Now what parents should do after calming down the child in order to teach an alternative skill and transition from play-time smoothly?


The solution is a little time consuming because it requires patience and observation to teach the appropriate skills.


You should observe or recall the moment when you take the toy away, and ask yourself, 'Through this behavior, what is she trying to communicate?'


It might be:


"But I am not done with playing, or could I play a bit more, or I still want to play."


Now you might ask, 'if that is the case, why didn't the child communicate?'


Want your child to say 'I want to play more'? Teach Functional Communication Skills!


Functional communication skills are the child's ability to communicate in a meaningful and effective manner to meet daily needs and achieve goals. These skills are crucial for children who have developmental delays, especially speech delay. 


Functional Communication Skills include the child's ability to express their wants and needs, initiate and maintain social interactions, understand and follow instructions. They are essential for independent living, academic success, and social relationships. Teaching and supporting these skills can be done through various interventions, behavior strategies, speech therapy, and assistive technology.  

How can you teach your child functional communication skills?


There are two ways you can teach your child request for more playtime by using functional communication skills:


1) If the child is non-verbal. You need to teach hand gestures and nodding.


When you take the toy, say 'the play-time is over' and add 'do you need five more minutes to play?' ask your child to nod for the latter. If he does nod, then give the toy back to the child.


Practice it a few times. Next time when you say 'the play-time is over' and ask the child 'do you need five more minutes to play?' The child will nod.


Same can be communicated through hand gestures. Take the toy and tell her to show his hand, indicating five minutes more.


2) If the child is verbal. You need to teach her to say 'I want to play more.'


Take the toy, first you say 'hey the playtime is over' and then tell her 'Say I want to play more.' If he says it, give the toy back.


Practice it a few times.


Next time when you say 'hey, the playtime is over.'


The child will reply, 'I want to play more.'


Give reinforcements immediately


When the child requests verbally or nonverbally, reinforce it. Now you might have a doubt: the play is reinforcing for her and we are ending it, won't that create any complications?


Reinforcement is not limited to tangibles or, in this case, one particular activity. Reinforcers can be social as well. Shower those praises, hugs & kisses. The child gets to know there are alternative behaviors through which he can request his wants. That will motivate the child to act the way you intend.


Take one precaution


Don't wait for the challenging behavior because for the child crying, whining, tantrums, etc. becomes the access to the reinforcer. On the contrary, we need to reward the good behaviors; not the bad ones.


Playtime ends, for now


Make the child understand that the play must come to an end for a while. He mentally prepares to leave the activity and start doing the task. After finishing the work, he can continue playing.




As a parent or caregiver, it is crucial to understand why a child is crying when playtime ends and responds accordingly. Providing a calm and supportive environment, offering a transitional activity, and validating the child's feelings can help ease the transition from playtime to the next activity.


Also, you can teach your child functional communication skills to make a request to extend playtime. Strategies of teaching differ from child to child. Suppose, if your child is non-verbal, then teach him hand gestures and nodding and if your child is verbal, then teach him to say 'I want to play more.'


Give the child reinforcement for communicating their request and please do not wait for the child to show challenging behaviors. 


It is also essential to establish routines and schedules, so the child knows what to expect, reducing their anxiety and uncertainty. By doing so, children can learn to cope with the end of playtime more effectively, reducing their distress and promoting healthy emotional development.


Does your child need therapy?


Butterfly Learnings provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, which helps children who have challenging behaviors or developmental delays to learn functional communication skills and play skills. These skills help the child socialize. Through personalized treatment plans and evidence-based intervention, Butterfly Learnings aims to make a positive impact in the lives of children and their families by making them independent in the activities of daily living and improving their social skills. 

Contact us

We would love to help you and your child out in every way possible. Fill out the form and lets start a beautiful journey.