It is the method of teaching where you teach a behavior or skill by providing rewards that directs the child towards a desirable behavior/skill.

Shaping is used to develop a target behavior/skill (behavior/skill chosen for change) that a child does not currently have or where the child has the general skill but cannot complete the task without assistance. It is a great way to help your child learn new behavior/skill

However, when using shaping to teach, you must:

  • Define the target behavior/skill
  • Identify the starting behavior/skill
  • Choose the shaping steps
  • Choose a reinforcer(reward)

If the target behavior/skill is for the child to be able to write with a pencil and the child has difficulty holding a pencil, an appropriate assistive step-by-step strategy starts with you placing your hand over the child’s hand, demonstrating to the child the correct grip of pencil and once the child achieves this step, you reinforce(reward) the child, and move on to the next step.



“George has trouble zipping his jacket. Once he has started, he can zip it all the way. however, he cannot get it started”.

You shape the behavior by reinforcing the successive approximations. So, when George touches the zipper, you help. holds the zipper, you help, pushes the little metal piece by the side of the zipper and then you help. You are slowly shaping George’s behavior of zipping by reinforcing the behaviors that are closer to the target behavior/skill. Instead of waiting for the child to exhibit the desired behavior, any behavior leading to the target behavior is rewarded.

The whole point is for rewards to be successive and it is not possible to retain rewards with previous responses. In this way, shaping of behaviour can be done.


What is the “target behaviour for your child”? Successively rewarding behaviours of the child to shape any behaviour/skill is something that is highly effective.