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Autism Pretend Play: Mind-Blowing Fun for All Ages!

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Are you a parent of a child with autism, struggling to understand how to foster your child’s pretend-play skills? Imaginative play, also known as pretend play, is crucial for every child’s development, including those on the Autism spectrum.

In this informative blog post, we will delve into how engaging in pretend play can greatly benefit children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), enhancing their social and communication, creative, and problem-solving skills.

Keep reading to learn about how pretend play skills support child development, strategies to set up the environment for your little one, and how to teach imaginative play.

Key Takeaways

  • Pretend play, also known as imaginative play, is crucial for the development of autistic children.
  • Children with ASD may engage in pretend play differently compared to their typically developing children.
  • Pretend play offers various benefits for children including improved social skills, enhanced communication abilities, problem-solving and creative thinking development, emotional regulation, and empathy building, as well as encouraging turn-taking and cooperation.
  • Strategies such as providing appropriate toys and props, creating structured play environments, encouraging peer play and interaction, and seeking guidance from professionals can help maximize the benefits of pretend play for children with ASD.

Difference of Pretend Play in Children with Autism compared to Typical Developing Peers

Kids with autism play differently compared to their peers. Their pretend play is often delayed and they exhibit deficits in play skills (Chen et al.2019). This type of play can be challenging for them. While kids without autism act out make-believe scenes, autistic children may not do this much.

For instance, a child who likes playing with a toy car might mimic the sound and move it around like it’s driving. But, an autistic child may spin the wheels repeatedly or line up cars by color instead of pretending to drive them.

Even when they learn to pretend play skills, these children show different actions compared to typical kids . A typical child may feed a stuffed animal in play while a kid with autism just mimics the motions without the toy present.

Overall, there are clear differences between how typically developing peers and children on the spectrum engage in pretend play.

Benefits of Pretend Play for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Pretend play for children with autism spectrum disorder offers various benefits, including improved social skills, enhanced communication abilities, problem-solving, and creative thinking development, fostering emotional regulation and empathy, as well as encouraging turn-taking and cooperation.

Improves social skills

Pretend play helps kids with autism develop social skills. They may learn how to act and talk in different settings. Therefore, it can make it easier for them to fit into groups and build friendships. It can boost peer interactions when they pretend to play together.

They may learn from playing out scenes from their daily life. This allows them to practice their social skills, including turn-taking, problem-solving, and greetings.

Development of communication skills

Pretend play opens up a new world for your child with autism. It helps them talk, express feelings, and understand others better. Your child learns to use words and actions in pretend games.

They start understanding how to speak their mind or ask for something they want. Pretend play also trains your child’s brain to think about what other people feel or think. This skill is very important in real life, not just during playtime! For instance, if your child plays a doctor game where they have to help a sick toy get better, they learn how to comfort someone who is sad or hurt.

So next time you see your kid acting out roles with their toys – know that it’s boosting their communication skills each moment!

Facilities problem-solving and creative thinking abilities

Engaging in pretend play can greatly benefit children with autism spectrum disorder by enhancing their problem-solving and creative thinking abilities. Pretend play provides an opportunity for these as children learn to navigate different scenarios, make decisions, and come up with imaginative solutions.

Through the use of toys and props, they can explore new ideas, create storylines, and think outside the box. This type of play stimulates their cognitive skills and encourages them to think critically as they invent new ways of playing.

By incorporating pretend play into their daily routines, parents can help foster their children’s problem-solving abilities while also promoting creativity in a fun and interactive way.

Foster’s emotional regulation and empathy

Pretend play is an important way for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to develop emotional regulation and empathy. Through pretend play, they can explore different emotions and learn how to manage them in a safe and controlled environment.

This helps them to understand the feelings of others, building their empathy skills. Play therapy techniques used by trained therapists can effectively support the emotional well-being and development of children with ASD, enhancing their ability to regulate emotions and show empathy towards others.

Encourages turn-taking and cooperation

Pretend play can be a great way to encourage turn-taking and cooperation in children with Autism. Playing pretend games like taking turns being the teacher or the student, or playing house where each person takes on different roles, can help develop these important social skills.

Sharing toys during play sessions can also teach autistic children about cooperation and sharing with others. By engaging in pretend play activities, children have the opportunity to practice these skills in a fun and supportive environment.

Strategies for Making the Most of Pretend Play for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Provide appropriate toys and props, create structured play environments, show play skills, encourage peer play and interaction, and seek guidance from professionals and therapists.

Provide appropriate toys and props

To promote pretend play in children, it is important to provide them with appropriate toys and props. Here are some ideas:

  1. Choose toys that match your child’s interests and abilities. This will help maintain their attention and engagement during playtime.
  2. Consider sensory-friendly toys that cater to your child’s sensory preferences or sensitivities. Toys with different textures, sounds, or lights can be beneficial.
  3. Use visual aids such as picture cards or social stories to help your child understand how to use the toys and engage in pretend play scenarios.
  4. Incorporate props that encourage imaginative play, such as dress-up clothes, toy kitchen sets, or dollhouses.
  5. Provide open-ended toys like blocks, Legos, or art materials that allow for creativity and problem-solving skills development.

Create structured play environments

Creating structured play environments can be beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder. It helps them feel more comfortable and provides a clear framework for their play. Here are some strategies to create structured play environments:

  1. Set up a designated play area: Create a specific area in your home or classroom that is dedicated to playing. This can help minimize distractions and provide a focused environment for play.
  2. Offer choices: Give children options within the structured play environment so they can have control over their play experiences. For example, you can offer a choice between different toys or activities.
  3. Provide support based on individual needs: Consider each child’s strengths and challenges when creating a structured play environment. Some children may benefit from additional sensory supports, such as fidget toys or calming tools.
  4. Model play behaviors: Demonstrate to your child how to play with different toys so they can also start to engage in similar behaviors.

Encourage peer play and interaction

Encouraging peer play and interaction is important for autistic kids. It can help them develop social skills and improve their communication abilities. Here are some strategies to encourage peer play and interaction with other children:

  1. Arrange playdates with other peers: Set up opportunities for your child to play with other children. Letting children play can help them learn social skills by observing and imitating their peers.
  2. Teach turn-taking and sharing: Practice taking turns while playing games or engaging in activities. Encourage your child to share toys and take turns with their playmates.
  3. Provide structured play opportunities: Create situations where your child can engage in joint activities with others, such as building blocks together.
  4. Offer positive feedback: Praise your child when they engage in positive social interactions during play sessions. This will reinforce their behavior and encourage more social engagement.
  5. Seek support from professionals: Consult therapists or occupational therapists who specialize in working with children with autism spectrum disorder. They can provide guidance on how to promote peer play and interaction.

Seek guidance from professionals and therapists

If you have a child with autism, it is important to seek guidance from professionals and therapists. They can provide helpful tips and strategies to make the most of play for your child. Here are some reasons why seeking guidance is important:

  • Professionals and therapists can help you understand your child’s unique needs and abilities.
  • They can suggest appropriate toys and props that will enhance your child’s play experience.
  • Professionals can guide you in creating structured play environments that support your child’s learning and development.
  • They can offer strategies for encouraging peer play and interaction, which can improve social skills.
  • Therapists can provide specific techniques like role-play or video modeling to help teach play skills.
  • Seeking guidance from professionals ensures that you are giving your child the best possible support in their play development.

Are Girls on the Spectrum Able to Participate in Autism Pretend Play?

Are girls on the spectrum able to participate in autism pretend play? Unmasking female autism symptoms is crucial in addressing this question. Despite commonly overlooked signs and differences in social communication, girls with autism can actively engage in pretend play when provided with appropriate support and understanding. By recognizing and accommodating their unique needs, we can ensure their inclusion in activities that promote social interaction and imagination.


In conclusion, pretend play is an important activity for children with autism spectrum disorder. It can help enhance their social skills, communication abilities, problem-solving skills, and creativity.

By providing appropriate toys and props, creating structured play environments, encouraging peer interaction, and seeking guidance from professionals, parents can support their child’s development through pretend play.

Embracing the power of imagination can have a positive impact on a child’s overall growth and well-being.


1. What is autism pretend play?

Autism pretend play helps kids with autism spectrum disorders improve their problem-solving skills, communication, creativity, and social skills.

2. How does teaching play skills help my child’s development?

Teaching play skills to a child can boost your child’s development including fine motor skills, gross motor skills, social communication, problem-solving, and creativity skills. Simple play using cause-and-effect toys can help develop problem-solving and motor skills. Advanced play behaviors such as role-play can guide your child in developing perspective-taking and understanding other people’s facial expressions and body language.

3. Are there specific play ideas for children on the autism spectrum?

Yes! Ideas for autistic kids include free play where they engage with what the child enjoys. Join in with your child in the toy or activity that they are playing with. Gradually, you can show them how you might play with certain objects.

4. Do typical children and those with developmental disorders benefit from similar types of plays?

Both groups do benefit from similar types of play; however, children dealing with developmental delays like autism might need extra support in areas like shared play or pretend play activities.

5. Why should family members participate in an autistic child’s pretend play?

Family members’ involvement in imaginary play can aid significantly related improvements in the child’s joint attention skills, help create a fun learning environment during shared imaginary plays, and develop joint play. Modeling play behaviors can help children develop pretend play skills.


Chen KL, Chen CT, Lin CH, Huang CY, Lee YC. Prediction Of Playfulness By Pretend Play, Severity Of Autism Behaviors, And Verbal Comprehension In Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2019 Nov 13;15:3177-3186. doi: 10.2147/NDT.S223681. PMID: 32009787; PMCID: PMC6859163.

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