#300 Selecting Therapy Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers Part 6 Early Pretend Play

TMTT-Podcast-Image-site

In today’s podcast we’re moving on to the next category of play: early pretend play.

It’s so much fun when a child reaches this developmental level. This kind of play is essential for language development because we are teaching a child to become symbolic – and that’s what words are – symbols. Listen to the show for more discussion about this concept. Listen here:

Many toddlers with language delays get stuck just before this level of play begins or in the early phases of pretend play, but there are ways we can help a child begin to engage in early pretending.

Steps for Introducing Pretend Play:

  1. Help a child learn to use familiar toys appropriately or functionally.

In other words, a child will begin to use a toy or an object in the way it’s intended. For example, push a toy car, stack blocks, throw or roll a ball, read a book, pound a hammer, etc…

If you’ve been following this hierarchy, a child is already doing these things. If not, he or she isn’t ready for pretend play! BACK UP to the earlier kinds of play. Listen to the previous shows in this series for ideas.

  1. Help a child learn to use objects herself.

It may help to think of this as “on” or “to” herself. Begin with familiar objects from daily routines:

  • Everyday items – phone
  • Dishes- cup, spoon, plate, bowl, fork
  • Toy Foods – variety of plastic foods
  • Bath & Sleeping Items – toothbrush, brush, washcloth, blanket, Band-Aids
  • Early Dress Up – hats, shoes, glasses, gloves, backpack/purses/bags, crowns

Listen to the show for a cute way to introduce this idea in a Pretend With Me Backpack.

  1. Help him learn to use objects on another person. 

With all the items we’ve discussed, the next goal is to use the object on another person. For example, a child would try to give Mommy a drink from his cup or brush Daddy’s hair.

Sometimes this step comes easily for a child and he will naturally begin to expand object use in this way.

However, in some children with developmental delays, we’ll have to teach (even over-teach) this step. Keep at it! This is particularly challenging for children who don’t consistently include other people during play. (This may also be a red flag for autism.)

 

  1. Help her learn to combine objects in pretend play.

Combining objects means that a child will use more than one object together during play. For example, she will feed a baby doll a bottle or cover a doll with a blanket.

If you introduce combining the objects with other things too soon, you may lose the child, so don’t rush it. I often see this is play when I’m introducing baby dolls. If the child is more interested in using the objects himself, then back up and play at this level for a while. Results in child staying with you and interacting better.

This process of teaching early pretend play usually takes some time to develop. It likely will NOT happen in one session, or even over a couple of months, particularly for children with moderate to significant receptive language and/or cognitive delays.

 

If you’d like specific toy suggestions, I’ve included these for you below:

EXCELLENT EARLY PRETEND PLAY OPTIONS

Doll Sets

Playing “babies” is the very best and easiest early pretend activity out there! For dads who are concerned about letting their little boys play dolls, try a boy doll, or a character doll, or stuffed animal. Gather lots of small accessories to make play with dolls exciting for toddlers. Before you go out and buy anything, look around your own house! My basic set includes cups, spoons, a fork, bowl/plate, bottles of milk and juice, blanket, carrier, brush, hats, shirts, diapers, wipes, socks or shoes, a few pieces of plastic food, and a “toy” for the baby.

Think about bigger pretend pieces too like a stroller, a bed, a high chair/feeding seat, etc…

Bath sets are FANTASTIC!

There are so many things you can do to target receptive language with doll sets. Work on following simple directions such as, “Feed the baby,” “Brush baby’s hair,” or “Wash her toes.” Expand to higher level receptive concepts, “She’s sleepy. What should baby do?”

Expressively, you’ll name the items as you play together. Once a child is verbal, target requesting by having him ask for every single item she needs to play with the dolls.

This kind of play is endless and a must-have activity for every toddler.

Target Words – baby, nouns/names for all of the accessories you’re using, plus all of the verbs/action words you can do with dolls – wash, eat, sleep, drink, jump, walk, dance, swing, night-night, etc…, plus the prepositions/location words you can target – clothing items can be put on/off, baby can be put in/out of various things, baby can climb up, fall down, etc… Dolls are great for teaching descriptive words such as big, little, wet, dry, yucky, stinky, pretty, etc…

 

Foods/Cooking/Kitchen Sets

My favorite plastic food sets are the ones that can be cut into pieces with the pretend knife. (We talked about this a couple of weeks ago during Early Sit Down play!) These food sets usually come with Velcro to attach the halves back together.  Many therapy catalogues sell plastic foods with velcro, but you can also find them cheaper at major retailers too or online. I often combine food toys with dolls once a child can sequence lots of actions. I also like to use plastic foods with a pretend kitchen or pretend microwave to “cook” the food. The microwave is always a huge hit!

Target Words – cut, eat, cook, stir, all done, plus all the names/nouns of the foods

 

Pretend Playground and House with Characters

Once a kid has started early pretending with dolls, I introduce some other “setting” for play with smaller characters, animals, or other smaller dolls. (See the paragraph below for info on characters.) Fisher Price makes lots of good toys in this category.  I use the barn quite a bit and the house occasionally. My favorite type of this toy is an older Little People slide with attachable swing. It’s simple and kids love it!

I play with the Little People, but I also collect other little plastic characters for kids’ preferences. In the past, McDonald’s offered lots of these kinds of toys with Happy Meals, so I have gathered quite of collection of lots of different people since the mid-90’s.  You can also buy other little characters solo in the giant retailers. All children’s shows sell a version of their characters in toy stores and online – every Disney character imaginable, Dora and Diego, Sesame Street characters, etc…

Vehicles for Early Pretend Play

Many toddlers prefer this kind of pretending over other options. Start here if that’s what a kid loves! Listen to the show for ideas for the toys below:

Plastic Animal Sets

I have many, many sets of these since they are so versatile and great for vocabulary building. Begin with the basics – animals can eat, sleep, run, cry, hide, jump, etc…

Expand your language options for these toys! Try to find big/little ones to work on size and pretend using the whole family concept.

For my zoo animals, I play zoo by putting the animals into their “cages” using a Chico shape sorter toy with colored keys to open the matching doors.

I use dinosaurs with sand in a small Rubbermaid container with a top so I can lug it in and out of my car and control spills.  This is great alternative for a larger sandbox if you don’t have the space, or when it’s too cold.  Toys R Us sells clean sand in small bags.

Posted in

Laura

Leave a Comment





Sign Up for your Free eBook

FREE-EBOOK
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Subscribe to the Podcast in iTunes

Browse Products

Featured Product

Recent Posts

Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."

LINDSAY

"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"

FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN

"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA