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Blue Parachute – Why Is Pretend Play Important?

What is pretend play? Also known as imaginative play and sometimes called symbolic play, this activity plays a crucial role in the overall development of individuals, including those on the autism spectrum. It can help a child’s development, including various essential skills they will need today and as they grow older.

Below, Blue Parachute delves into the subject of this helpful learning activity.

How Does Pretend Play Contribute to a Child’s Development?

There are several pretend play benefits, including that it contributes to development. Pretending can be particularly beneficial in addressing specific social interaction, communication, and flexibility challenges. It provides a structured yet dynamic environment for learning and growth.

Here, we offer a few examples of how imaginative, symbolic play can help.

Cognitive Development

Pretend play involves creating imaginary scenarios and characters, which requires cognitive skills such as problem-solving, planning, and organization. Children and individuals on the autism spectrum can enhance their cognitive abilities through the complexities of acting like someone else.

Social and Emotional Skills

Engaging in pretend play often involves interaction with others, fostering the development of social skills such as cooperation, turn-taking, and negotiation. For individuals with autism who may struggle with social interactions, engaging in this provides a structured and enjoyable way to practice these skills.

Additionally, pretending to be different characters allows individuals to explore and express a range of emotions, promoting emotional understanding and regulation. Individuals can explore and express emotions in a controlled environment. This can be particularly beneficial for those with autism who may face challenges in understanding and managing emotions, serving as a tool for emotional expression and regulation.

Communication Skills

Pretend play encourages the use of language in a meaningful context. Individuals develop and practice language skills in a natural and enjoyable setting, whether negotiating roles, describing scenarios, or expressing thoughts and feelings through play. It provides opportunities for individuals on the autism spectrum to express themselves, use verbal communication, and understand the social aspects of language, such as taking on different roles and using appropriate expressions.

Creativity and Imagination

As a platform for creativity and imagination, it allows individuals to explore new ideas, experiment with different roles, and envision scenarios beyond their immediate experiences. This creative aspect is essential for thinking outside the box and problem-solving. It enhances cognitive skills like problem-solving, creativity, and flexible thinking. It also allows individuals to explore various scenarios, manipulate objects, and develop imaginative solutions, promoting cognitive flexibility.

Understanding of Others’ Perspectives

Pretend play often involves taking on different roles and perspectives. This helps individuals develop empathy and a better understanding of the emotions, thoughts, and experiences of others. This skill is valuable for navigating social interactions.


By providing a safe and enjoyable space for self-expression, individuals can express themselves through the characters they play. This allows them to explore aspects of their identity and emotions in a non-threatening manner.

Flexibility and Adaptability, Along With Routines and Predictability

Because these symbolic games are inherently flexible and open-ended, as individuals engage in various scenarios, they learn to adapt to different roles, situations, and storylines. This flexibility can translate into improved adaptability in real-life situations.

While pretend play involves imagination, it can also incorporate routines and predictability. For individuals with autism who thrive in structured environments, combining imaginative play with a sense of routine can be comforting and engaging.

When facilitating pretend play for individuals on the autism spectrum, it’s essential to consider their interests, preferences, and sensitivities. Tailoring activities to align with their unique needs can maximize the benefits and contribute to their overall development.

Pretend Play Activities

If you aren’t familiar with exercises and activities, we have some ideas for how you can use pretend play in autism.

Role-Playing Games

  • Set up scenarios related to daily life, such as going to a grocery store, doctor’s office, or school.
  • Take turns playing different roles, allowing individuals to practice social interactions and communication in a structured environment.

Social Stories for Kids With Autism

  • Create social stories or puppet shows that depict various social situations.
  • You can also use puppets or visual aids to act out different scenarios, helping individuals understand social cues and appropriate responses.

Imaginary Play Centers

  • Designate play areas with themes like a kitchen, doctor’s office, or construction site.
  • Encourage individuals to role-play within these centers, promoting creativity and imaginative thinking.

Storytelling With Props

  • Use props or visual aids to accompany storytelling sessions.
  • Allow individuals to create and act out their stories using the props, fostering language development and imaginative play.

Dress-Up and Costume Play

  • Provide a variety of costumes and dress-up items.
  • Allow individuals to choose costumes and act out characters, promoting self-expression and exploration of different roles.

Board Games With Themes

  • Choose board games with themes related to storytelling or role-playing.
  • Games that involve taking on roles, making decisions, and navigating through scenarios can be engaging and beneficial.

Create a Pretend Play Box

  • Assemble a box with various props and items related to different scenarios.
  • Individuals can choose items from the box to create imaginative play scenarios, promoting autonomy and creativity.

Interactive Story Creation

  • Collaboratively create stories with individuals, incorporating their interests.
  • Encourage them to contribute ideas, characters, and settings, making the storytelling interactive and enjoyable.

Sensory Play Scenarios

  • Integrate sensory play into pretend scenarios, such as creating a sensory bin with different textures.
  • Combine sensory experiences with imaginative play for a holistic and enjoyable activity.

Video Modeling

  • Watch and discuss videos that demonstrate social skills and imaginative play.
  • Use videos to model positive behaviors and interactions in various scenarios.


Being patient, flexible, and attuned to the individual’s preferences is essential when engaging in these activities. Adjust the level of structure and sensory input based on their needs, and celebrate their efforts and creativity throughout the pretend play experiences.

Unlock the Power of Pretend Play with Blue Parachute’s Video Resources

Embarking on the journey of pretend play is a vibrant and essential part of the development of individuals on the autism spectrum. At Blue Parachute, we understand the significance of imaginative play in fostering creativity, social skills, and communication. Our extensive catalog of videos, crafted by Licensed and Certified Behavior Therapists, caters to a diverse audience and serves as a valuable form of autism home support services.

Our videos address various skills, including essential skills, play and social skills, communication skills, life skills, and more. Whether you’re navigating the early years or supporting an adult with ASD, we are your partner in every stage of the journey.

We believe in making our resources accessible to everyone on this unique journey. With subscription pricing designed for flexibility, we ensure that parents, teachers, and others can find a plan that suits their needs. Our commitment to affordability is rooted in the belief that everyone deserves access to quality resources.

Empowering Through Play and Learning

As you explore the world of pretend play, remember that we are here to support you with our extensive video library. Join us and dive into a realm where play becomes a powerful connection, learning, and growth tool. Subscribe today and unlock the potential of imaginative play. If you have any questions about our video library, our pricing, or other related inquiries, you can find answers to your questions on our FAQ page. You can also contact us today using our online form. Blue Parachute can help guide your pretend play adventures each step of the way.

Related Readings:

Blue Parachute – Who We Help

Blue Parachute – How We Help