Teaching the Verbal Operants While Playing Zingo

Guest Authored By Colleen McPherson, RBT

Blue Bird Day and kid playing games

What are the verbal operants?  

The verbal operants are mand, tact, echoic, intraverbal, listener responding, and motor imitation.  Mand means to request.  A child can mand for food or a toy.  Tact means that you are labeling something.  A child can tact an animal or toy they see nearby.  Echoic means that someone is repeating what was heard.  If someone says the word “cow”, the child will repeat it and say “cow”.  Intraverbal is when you answer or respond to a question or statement.  An example would be someone saying “peek-a…” and the child responding with “boo!”.  Listener responding relates to a child following directions they were told.  An example would be an adult saying “come here” and the child listening and coming to them.  Motor imitation is when someone does an action and the child copies them and does it back.  For example, an adult could clap their hands twice and the child claps their hands back twice. 

How to teach the verbal operants while playing Zingo: 

When playing the game Zingo you are able to work on teaching and practicing all of the verbal operants.  Ensure that you are reinforcing your child when they do mand for a piece of the game or echo a word you said from the game.  Below are some ways and examples of how you can teach the specific operants while playing the game Zingo.   


  1. Withhold the boards from your child until they request a board from you. 
  2. Withhold the dispenser for the pieces until they request it from you. 


  1. Begin by modeling labeling the animals and items on the board you have and then fade your prompts out once your child begins to label their board pieces on their own. 


  1. Point out an item they got a piece for on their board and say it and have them repeat the word.  For example: “Say bird”…”Bird”. 


  1. When there is an animal on the board like a dog, say to your child “Dog says…” and wait for them to respond with “woof woof”. 

Listener responding:

  1. Before you begin the game, you can put the box in front of them and tell them to open the box, and wait for them to follow your directions. 
  2. Continue on to say set up the game and wait for them to situate the pieces and give each of you a board. 

Motor imitation:

  1. To practice motor imitation, you can slide the dispenser and say “do this” and wait for your child to copy the movement.  


Shira. (2020, March 10). Verbal Operants. Retrieved from How to ABA.

What Are Verbal Operants? (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2020, from Applied Behavior Analysis Programs.