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Pretend Play builds skills in many essential developmental areas. When your child engages in pretend (or dramatic) play, they are actively learning social and emotional life skills. They build on their self-esteem and self-worth when they learn they can be just about anything by pretending! Children begin to develop problem-solving skills, to coordinate, cooperate, and think flexibly.
With children who have additional needs, pretend play can take on a whole another role of teaching. Children can experience social situations before they happen. We have always used pretend or role play in therapy. Such as going shopping, eating in a cafe use role modelling to order food, be the waiter or cooking in the kitchen. A visit to the dentist can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, you can pretend first on dolls or soft toys. The child then can experience what will happen in a fun environment.
Some children may be less social or imaginative with their play. They may instead show interest in other objects, and get enjoyment from sorting things or counting. You can use their interests to encourage social and imaginative play. Join in with the activities they enjoy, copy what they are doing. Encourage conversation, turn taking and waiting these skills can be learnt through play. A child with special needs might need a little support, but they also need the freedom to decide what to play and how to go about it.