Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fostering imaginative play in children with Aspergers and other special needs

I remember the first time my son with Asperger Syndrome picked up two toys and started to pretend they were having a conversation. Though this is typical play for most young kids, my son was almost five years old before he initiated this form of creative play. I recently came across an article explaining why creative play in children with ASD is important, and how to foster this activity. Though this article focuses on Aspergers and High Functioning Autism, many of the ideas are applicable to other children with special needs.

In a nutshell, imaginative pretend play is critical to a child’s development, for example:
  • Thinking Skills— Pretend play provides the youngster with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it's two kids wanting to play the same role or searching for the right material to make a roof for a playhouse, the youngster calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that she will use in every aspect of her life, now and forever.
  • Social and Emotional Skills— When the youngster engages in pretend or dramatic play, she is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, she learns how to share responsibility, take turns, and creatively problem-solve. When the youngster pretends to be different characters, she has the experience of "walking in someone else's shoes," which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. It’s normal for kids to see the world from their own egocentric point of view, but through maturation and cooperative play, they will begin to understand the feelings of others. The youngster also builds self-esteem when she discovers she can be anything just by pretending.
  • Language Skills— Have you ever listened in as your son or daughter engaged in imaginary play with her dolls or peers? You will probably hear some words and phrases you never thought she knew! In fact, parents often hear their own words reflected in the play of their kids. Kids can do a perfect imitation of parents and teachers. Pretend play helps the youngster understand the power of language. Also, by pretend playing with others, she learns that words give her the means to re-enact a story or organize play. This process helps the youngster to make the connection between spoken and written language (a skill that will later help her learn to read).

There are many apps we have found over the last year which can help foster imaginative and creative play. Here are some of our favorite developers for creative play.

Little Bit Studios apps
Makers of the award winning apps Bugs and ButtonsBugs and BubblesBugs and Numbers and more apps rated 5 stars from Smart Apps for Kids.

From $0.99-$2.99 Please note, price and availability varies by platform.

Toca Boca
These are some of the favorite free play apps of the Smart Apps team. We flat out love them as do our kids. From playing hair dresser, exploring the town to playing scientist in Toca Lab these are fantastic apps to help stimulate imagination.

From FREE-$2.99 Please note, price and availability varies by platform.

The makers of the Dr Panda apps have twenty-two apps available and are developing more all the time. These apps allow kids to run a preschool, restaurant, airport and even a whole town. Kids can explore, foster their imagination and play freely in these quality apps.

From FREE-$2.99 Please note, price and availability varies by platform.

Check here for more apps we have found which offer a creative outlet for children.


Rachel H's son has been pretending to be a dog named "Bluey" for the last week.

No comments:

Post a Comment