Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Adaptive Pretend Play

Recent research indicated that children with cerebral palsy displayed less affective expression and imagination when engaging in pretend play as compared to typically developing peers.  When the children with cerebral palsy played with adapted pretend play toys positive affective expression and imagination increased.

Pretend play is a learning experience for children that requires so many skills.  Pediatric therapists should provide consultation services to adapt toys and activities in the home, preschools and early elementary schools.  Here are some suggestions:

1.  Use a switch - is it possible to adapt the toy to provide switch access?  Some pretend play toys such as pretend kitchen sets have knobs to turn on/off.

2.  Use open ended, easily manipulated, pretend play objects - For example items such a play silks are light weight and can be adapted with a wrist cuff for a child to use.  Maybe large hats to represent role playing instead of having to put full costumes on.  Costumes with velcro or ones with easy closures may work better.

3.  Make sure toys are within reach - if a child can not reach the toy it is useless.  Shelving can be lowered,  place toys on the floor or put toys on an accessible table top for all the children to experience them.

4.  Adapt handles if necessary - If objects are hard to grab try to build up handles or knobs to make it easier to grasp.  For example, you could use foam around toy baby bottles to make it easier to hold.

5.  Try large, bright materials - For example if playing grocery store use regular size recycled boxes with adapted grips if necessary.  You could cut handles into cereal boxes making them easier to lift.  Limit visual stimulation in the background.

6.  Provide demonstrations - Not necessarily an adaptation but sometimes children may benefit from suggestions of how to use the toys for pretend play.

What ideas or suggestions do you have for adapting pretend play?

Need ideas to help teach pretend play?  Check out the Pretend Play School forms, Pretend Play Doctor and Hospital and Pretend Play Animals to help spark the imagination.

Reference:  Hsieh HC. Effectiveness of adaptive pretend play on affective expression and imagination of children with cerebral palsy. Res Dev Disabil. 2012 Jun 22;33(6):1975-1983. [Epub ahead of print

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