Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Summer 2010

Meeting Point: Latest From Lovaas

Top 10 Pretend Play Materials

Is your son or daughter ready to learn to play pretend? Typically, we first teach other early interactive play skills to children such as: imitating what another person does while playing, handing objects to a person, accepting and using objects that are handed to them, taking turns, and responding to short verbal interactions. At the same time, we work on increasing a child's ability to speak in full sentences. We may also focus on basic pretend actions such as pretending to eat a piece of play food or pretending to use a banana as a phone. When a child demonstrates these prerequisite skills, it's time to start more advanced play scripts such as pretending to play doctor, house, or waiter.

Below is a list of the top ten pretend play materials that enhance the pretend play (#1 is the best). We composed the list based on 1) the likelihood the material will be needed when playing pretend, 2) the variety of options the material adds to teaching pretend, and 3) the quality and price of the material.

  • 10) Pretend and Play Camp Set (camping)
  • 9) Disney Princess Hair Accessory Tote (hair dresser)
  • 8) Dora the Explorer Backpack Rescue Bag (Dora the Explorer)
  • 7) Kidkraft Deluxe Let's Cook Kitchen (house)
  • 6) Parents Animal Hospital (veterinarian)
  • 5) Learning Resources Kitchen Set (waiter)
  • 4) Pacific Play Tents Playchute 10' Parachute (camping, train ride)
  • 3) Step2 Play Food 101-pc. Set/Learning Resources Play Food Sets (grocery store)
  • 2) Melissa & Doug Birthday Cake/Pizza/Cookie Dough/Sushi Play Sets (house)
  • 1) Fisher Price Medical Kit (doctor)

Do you agree with the list and its order? Would you add any other materials to the list? You can make comments on the Lovaas blog posting of Top 10 Pretend Play Materials.

Check out the Lovaas Store for more specific information on each of the pretend play materials.

10) Pretend and Play Camp Set (camping)

For those children who may be interested in a pretend camping scenario, this set includes all the basic materials one would associate with a camping trip. The pieces are realistic looking and the light up lantern can be used as a reinforcer (e.g., a child learns to go under a blanket or parachute tent and then turns on the lantern as part of the camping scenario).

9) Disney Princess Hair Accessory Tote (hair dresser)

Teaching a child to play barber shop or beauty salon is often best accomplished through using a variety of materials that may be naturally reinforcing. The blow dryer in particular is often a preferred item, and additional items in the set such as a hair curler and hair straightener allow elaboration of a basic beauty salon script.

8) Dora the Explorer Backpack Rescue Bag (Dora the Explorer)

Playing pretend based on shows a child already watches is a smart idea. Dora the Explorer in particular lends itself to an easily scripted adventure in which the child loses something, gets the map to find out where it is, has to follow two tasks (jump over the couch, crawl under the table), and then finds the object. The script can be changed to focus on different locations, to get something from the backpack along the way, etc.

7) Kidkraft Deluxe Let's Cook Kitchen (house)

This wooden kitchen is more expensive than some plastic sets. However, there are more door openings than many kitchen sets, the set includes more appliances than other kitchen sets, and the appliances are to scale. All in all, the set allows for a lot of creativity with plenty of room for more than one person.

6) Parents Animal Hospital (veterinarian)

This set can be used as a basic doctor's kit as well as a veterinarian kit. Locking or unlocking the cages is a reinforcing activity for some children, although it does take some fine motor control.

5) Learning Resources Kitchen Set (waiter)

Some of the pieces, such as the plates, are rather small, and there are no standard cups (just mugs). However, the number of dishes, pots, and silverware in the set allow for a variety of pretend play scenarios including setting the table for a restaurant, cooking on the stove while playing house, or pouring juice while having a picnic.

4) Pacific Play Tents Playchute 10' Parachute (camping, train ride)

This parachute offers a wide variety of pretend play options: from draping it over a table to make a tent to pulling it on the floor as a train. The size of the parachute is neither too small nor too large.

3) Step2 Play Food 101-pc. Set/Learning Resources Play Food Sets (grocery store)

The amount of food in 101-piece set makes it easy to play restaurant, house, or grocery store. Further, parents can pick and choose those food items with which a child is most familiar in his/her own life. While a little more expensive than a some play food sets, the Learning Resources play food sets come with life size food that is made of durable plastic. Parents can pick and choose the specific play set necessary to play restaurant, house, or grocery store, and focus on food that is most familiar to their son or daughter's own life.

2) Melissa & Doug Birthday Cake/Pizza/Cookie Dough/Sushi Play Sets (house)

The Melissa and Doug pretend play materials provide various options (e.g., the pizza party and birthday party sets both have different toppings you can add and you can "slice" the pizza or birthday cake to make it even more realistic). The toys are made out of wood, so they are durable as well. Materials can be used for playing restaurant, house, etc.

1) Fisher Price Medical Kit (doctor)

The Fisher Price set comes with a variety of tools children often find reinforcing – an otoscope to look in other people's eyes, a shot that they can give followed by the "patient" pretending to cry. The set is large enough to be easily manipulated and includes enough material to elaborate on a basic doctor script.

Would you like more information on Airplane Travel? Let us know here

The names of all children in this newsletter have been changed in respect for family confidentiality.


Where's My Hand! Say, "give me five" but lose your hand in your sleeve – have child help you find it and then lose the other hand.

Keep It Up! Cooperate keeping one balloon floating in the air.

Bubble Gum Bubble! Blow a big bubble of bubble gum and pop it with a big pop.

Macarena! Dance the Macarena. Learn all the moves in gross-motor imitation and build it together.

Kick the Can! Play kick the can by racing to be the first one to kick the can over. The child doesn't know which trial you'll let him go on, so you've got a head start. The anticipation of trying to race you keeps his attention at a peak. (But don't cheat by going when he's not attending!)




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