What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
        
 
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  

Resources

   

HOW TO HELP CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS ENGAGE IN IMAGINARY PLAY

     Home  >  Articles  > News & Tips: Special Needs
by Karli Petrovic

Related: imaginary play, pretend, child, kids, special needs, how to, parents, advice, tips, help,


"Imaginary play is important for all children because it helps them understand their surroundings," says Susan J. Schwartz, MAEd, senior director at the Child Mind Institute's Learning and Diagnostics Center in Manhattan. "It's a way for them to practice. It's a way for them to explore the world."

While jump-starting it may seem daunting, this "practice" also helps create a foundation for other skills, and the consequences of a child's inability to play imaginary games can be detrimental to her development in the future. For example, imaginary play is the basis of later language skills, says Dana Battaglia, outreach clinical coordinator at The Eden II Programs and a visiting professor at Adelphi University in Garden City. Children who do not participate may suffer a lack of flexibility in their language later in life, meaning they could be unable or find it difficult to express themselves. "Practice," says Schwartz, also helps children learn basic social skills.

Many children with special needs, especially those on the autism spectrum, find it difficult to take on the role of someone else. An autistic child might not be able to play "mommy" to a doll because she doesn't have the language to know what the mom would say. For this reason, parents might want to purchase dress-up clothing, kitchen sets, dollhouses, or other similar toys that promote role swapping or playing out different scenarios.

Below are more tips from Battaglia and Schwartz on how to encourage children with special needs to engage in imaginative play:

 

Start with the right arsenal of toys. Battaglia and Schwartz agree that multisensory toys, or toys that engage more than one of the five senses, are good choices. Toys that light up, make noise, have different textures, are moldable, or move are examples of multisensory toys. Battaglia also suggests using dolls and play sets, such as a farm where the pieces can be used to build imaginary stories about the pigs, cows, and sheep. Schwartz praises blocks as wonderful toys kids can use to represent other objects, like a "car" that the child can "drive" across the floor.

 

young boy playing with a toy car outside

Be a good role model. For better or worse, kids learn from their parents. Battaglia recommends that parents model certain types of imaginary play and try to get their child to follow suit. Build a fort together out of blankets, for instance; when a "guest" knocks at the fort door, demonstrate the type of voice and language you would use in greeting.

 

Recognize that adults use imaginary play, too. For kids, pretend play develops into more advanced forms of role playing such as playing "house" or "school" with other children. Adults use imaginary play as well when they daydream about certain scenarios (such as their performance at the next board meeting) or rehearse a situation involving other people (like breaking bad news). By keeping in mind that imaginary play is all around, you might be inspired with new ways to help your child.

 

Know when to seek help. If you feel overwhelmed while trying to effectively engage your child in imaginary play, reach out for help. For children under age 3, parents can seek the advice of a pediatrician or have the county Department of Mental Health conduct an evaluation. School psychologists, teachers, and counselors are available to assist children over the age of 3. Reputable websites can also be helpful in identifying delays in developmental milestones, such as talking, but Schwartz cautions against relying too heavily on Internet advice. "Make sure you aren't comparing your child too much to the milestones," she says. "Though of course development is on a continuum, you don't want to be too far off."

 

 

Also see: The Importance of Pretend Play for Children with Autism and Other Special Needs

A Parents' Guide to Special Needs


Did you find this helpful?

Get more useful parenting info weekly
Sign-up for newsletter


More News & Tips: Special Needs Articles

Study Finds Children With Autism More Sedentary Than Those Without the Disorder
Tips for Eating Gluten-Free at Every Restaurant
Teaching Your Child with Special Needs Difficult Skills
Teach Your Child Coping Strategies Now for a Smooth Transition into Adulthood Later
The Best of the Rest of the Web: Free Therapy, Appropriate Education, and Making Friends

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local News & Tips: Special Needs Sponsors


Our Lady Of Wisdom Regional Catholic School
114 Myrtle Ave.
Port Jefferson, NY
631-473-1211
Our Lady of Wisdom Regional Catholic School was fo...

Sterling Care Home Health Services
235 Glenville Rd, 3rd fl
Greenwich, CT
203-532-0500
Sterling Care Home Staffing?s Family Services Divi...
Bird River Studios
343 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY
718-782-1791
...

Congregation Beth Elohim Summer Camp
274 Garfield Place
Park Slope, NY
718-768-3814
Congregation Beth Elohim has a Summer Camp program...
Small Wonders Child Care Center, Inc.
250 Veterans Memorial Hwy
Hauppauge, NY
631-360-0472
...
See Our News & Tips: Special Needs Directory

local zones

Nassau

Nassau cont.

Suffolk

Suffolk cont.

Westchester

Westchester cont.

Fairfield

Rockland

Rockland cont.

Queens

Queens cont.

Brooklyn

Brooklyn cont.

Manhattan

Copyright 2014 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE