#301 Selecting Therapy Activities for Toddlers Part 7 Moving On with Pretend Play


For this week’s podcast, we’ll discuss how pretend play continues to develop.

In the last show, #300, we reviewed a four- step process for introducing pretend play:

Introducing Pretend Play

  1. Help a child learn to use familiar toys appropriately or functionally.
  2. Help a child learn to use objects herself.
  3. Help him learn to use objects on another person.
  4. Help her learn to combine objects in pretend play.

If you missed that show, listen here.

In the first half of today’s show, we’re discussing the next rung of pretend play development:

  1. Pretending with Familiar Routines a Child Experiences
  2. Pretending with Familiar Routines a Child Observes

Listen for recommendations for helping a child learn to pretend in this way:

FACT: When using new toys and novel play, late talkers often become even more quiet! We discussed how to handle this common occurrence.

I also explained the next phases of pretend play and how to introduce these important skills to toddlers with language delays/disorders:

  1. Expanding Object Combinations (When It’s Not Coming Easily)
  2. Play Sequencing
    1. One Action with Many Objects
    2. One Object and Several Actions
  3. Object Substitution
  4. Pretending with Less Familiar Routines
  5. Enacting New Endings to Play Routines
  6. Pretending without Props

For children who are 3, the next play skills are:


This is an important point because it means….

KIDS AREN’T READY FOR THIS KIND OF PLAY UNTIL THEY ARE OVER 3! (That’s developmentally, not chronologically!) We can’t have expectations that are beyond a child’s developmental level! Listen for that discussion.


Toy Suggestions I Mentioned on the Podcast

Toys to Promote Early Pretending

Housecleaning Activities 

Imitating early housekeeping is a universal play skill that emerges between 18 months and 24 months. (You’ll see this in emerge even as early as 15 months in some toddlers.)  Sweeping, dusting, and other kinds of cleaning routines are a super fun activity for young children. Look at the sets below, but you can get great sets at Dollar Stores too!



Play Sets to Promote Object Combinations and Sequencing

Barn – 

You can get “older-looking” animal sets from WalMart for less than $10. Those are my favorite sets because you can get a trough and other accessories to facilitate new play routines.


Garage Set 

An early sequencing activity that most toddlers love is driving several cars or trucks in to garages or slots/doors or sliding several trucks/cars in sequence down the ramp.  This play routine is a good example of using several objects with the same one action.

Here you can also teach a child to use several actions with one object. Drive the car, fill it with gas, and then drive it down the ramp. Listen to the show for why this is important!


Truck Carrier  – This toy is one I never bought until I realized the appeal of loading cars/trucks on to the carrier, driving it a few feet, then unloading every vehicle. Now I use it for every single child who is in the earliest phases of pretending.


Barbie Pool – Water play is a great transition to early pretending!


Next week we finish up this series with ideas for Early Art Activities. I hope you’ll join me!



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