Therapy Tip of the Week for 5.18.12

Here’s this week’s Therapy Tip of the Week:


Beginning to Teach Pretend Play to Toddlers with Developmental Delays

Pretend play is such an important cognitive milestone for toddlers. A lack of pretend play is associated with developmental disorders including autism.

Many times toddlers with developmental delays don’t begin to perform very early “pretend” play activities until we teach them what to do and how to do it.

The video includes all of the background information you’ll need to consider as you’re first introducing these kinds of new play activities.

Sometimes in an effort to teach pretend play, we begin with activities that are not meaningful for the toddler. Remember that young children, especially those with delays, need a concrete, real-life representation of an activity BEFORE they begin to use an object symbolically or to “pretend.” For toddlers, this means we begin pretend play using familiar objects from a child’s daily routines.

Use toys a child already loves! If he or she likes a baby doll, you’ll begin with this. Other options include a stuffed animal, character, or even Thomas the Train.

Think about the number of items you present to a child at one time. If he’s overwhelmed by too many toys, he’ll either move quickly from object to object OR leave play altogether. Either option means he’s overstimulated, and you need to reduce the number of items available at one time.

Joint attention is an important part of learning to play with another person. Background information about joint attention was reviewed in video. Placing yourself within a child’s line of vision can help him learn to look at you and include you during his play.

Be sure you’re not “mindlessly narrating” a toddler’s play and overstimulating him with too much language! Keep it simple with single words and short phrases. Work in your early signs to help a child link meanings between signs, words, and actions/objects. Include play sounds and exclamatory words to help him attend to you and possibly, begin to imitate easy, early words.

If a child doesn’t perform the action you’re showing him, use hand-over-hand assistance to help him. Learning to imitate actions is a key skill in developing pretend play AND is the very first step in learning to talk!

Next week we’ll talk more about the additional early pretend play actions to introduce to toddlers.

I’d love to hear your feedback! Drop me a line here or on Facebook!


If you’d like more information to help you work with a toddler with a language delay, check out the following resources:

Teach Me To Talk is my first DVD for parents and professionals with many, many therapy clips with toddlers. This DVD will SHOW you how to use play-based activities to teach a child to talk.

Teach Me To Listen and Obey 1 and 2 – DVD for parents and professionals to explain receptive language and begin to teach a child to UNDERSTAND language. A child must understand words BEFORE he uses those words to talk. If a child is not consistently following directions, begin with this DVD.

Teach Me To Play WITH You is a therapy manual written as a resource for parents and for professionals to use with parents. All activities are focused on helping a child learn to socially interact with and play with other people.

Building Verbal Imitation in Toddlers is my newest therapy manual for both parents and professionals. This book?walks you step-by-step through the process of helping a child learn to imitate. It’s a must-have resource for anyone working with a late talker.




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