Show and Tell: Imaginext Play Sets

In the world of toys, it seems that it is a little harder to find good toys for boys that encourage a lot of pretend play and imagination. I started my career working with adults, and it wasn't until I started specializing in working with kids that I realized how important pretend play is. There are so many skills that come from pretend play. Coming up with ideas and being able to express them to others, having abstract thinking, taking on someone else's perspective, learning about emotions, learning about what motivates people to do certain things (figuring out the 'why'), thinking outside of yourself, social problem solving, etc., etc.

Last year I had a friend donate a bunch of toys to my practice, and some of my favorites have been the imaginext play sets. They have also been the favorite of my class full of boys. It's so fun when toys that bring on the imagination bring kids together and play scenarios are created. I loved just sitting back and watching the magic unfold as kids who rarely interacted with others joined the play.

Here are some of the Imaginext play sets. If anything it can give you some ideas of some pretend play scenarios you can build with your kids (even if you don't have the play set).

For other pretend play ideas, you can check out of my Pretend Play Amazon Affiliate site, it's kind of a work in progress (meaning I just add things randomly, usually while I'm blogging, so I can show pictures of what I'm talking about). In case you don't want to scroll through all of it, here's kind of a breakdown. 
  • Pages 1-4: Puppets
  • Pages 4-8: Dress up
  • Pages 9-15: Kitchen/Home/Store/Work
  • Pages 16-17: Imaginext

P.L.A.Y. Project Research

I love the P.L.A.Y. Project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters). I love being able to coach parents as they connect with their children through play, and help their children progress developmentally. It's so exciting to see the progress of the kids, and to see how empowering this program is for parents. I really do love it.

In October 2014, P.L.A.Y. Project research was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. Please check it out, it's exciting, as the P.L.A.Y. Project has been working on this research for the past few years.

Through the P.L.A.Y. Project (, they found significant improvements in:

  • caregiver/parent and child interaction
  • social interaction of children with autism
  • social-emotional development of children with autism
  • autism symptomatology
Secondary outcomes included:
  • improved parent stress and depression
  • P.L.A.Y. Project consultant fidelity

Show and Tell: Dear Santa

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell is a such a great book! It's similar to Dear Zoo, which I also love. The first time I had ever heard of these books I was doing an evaluation on a preschooler with a language delay. I was in the evaluation with a speech therapist and she had brought Dear Zoo along with a communication device that was already programmed to go along with the book. It was so fun to read and for the child to be able to "read" with us. Books like this are great for helping a child learn to use a communication device because there are so many repetitive phrases. It's also great for all kids because they can easily learn to "read" the book with you. I love books where kids can predict what comes next. There's so much you can do with that!

Another activity that I've done with this book in my preschool/kindergarten classes is I've wrapped up similar items and had the kids unwrap them as we read the story. It's fun, engaging, and also works on some nice fine motor skills. So we're hitting language, literacy, fine motor, turn taking, attention, etc.

Here's some of the vocab that is targeted in this book:

  • car
  • kite
  • ball
  • tiger (mask)
  • paint
  • trumpet
  • cat
  • small
  • big
  • bouncy
  • scary
  • messy
  • noisy

Wait Time

When a child has language delays, oftentimes their processing time is longer than we actually give them. We may say something like "get your coat on" and then when they don't immediately respond, we say "put your jacket on." Then when they still just look at us blankly we say "why aren't you doing what I asked?"

We think that we're giving them plenty of time to respond, but we're not. I've always had a goal to learn Spanish, and I know enough to get by, but not enough to have a conversation. I usually say I can speak like a 3-year-old. I can speak in 3-5 word sentences pretty well. When I have been traveling and people are talking to me (usually much faster than I can process) sometimes I look at them blankly as I try to figure out what they just said. Then just as I'm about to figure it out, they say rephrase what they just told me. So now, not only am I trying to figure out what they said initially, now I have to figure out a new sentence (which actually means the same thing as the first sentence, but I don't always know that). And so it slows me down even more. By the third sentence, I just kind of give up and say "I don't understand."

I honk this can relate to some of the kids we work with. We need to check ourselves to see if we are givng them enough time to process what we've said before we assume they're not listening. Counting to ten may feel like forever, but it may also give enough time for a response rather than prompting a response. Repeating instructions verbatim may also be helpful for kids who take a longer time deciding what you said the first time. 

Sometimes one of our greatest tools can just be our wait time. We don't always have to be in such a hurry :)