By: Valerie Deneen
Being a parent of a preschooler can be trying for anyone at times. But, for parents who have disabilities, this youthful period can be especially challenging.
No matter what day of the week, children in this age group tend to have an endless supply of energy and often demand a tremendous amount of attention from their parents. Finding activities to do with your preschooler may seem limiting at first, but with a little creativity, you can help channel some of your child's boundless energy into structured playtime—all while sitting down.
In this article, we will explore pretend play scenarios that can be done from a wheelchair. Each one will provide your child with hours of fun. In the end, the goal is also to enhance your child's development with the added benefit of tiring him or her out—leaving you with enough energy to complete the endless tasks a parent faces each day.
The Benefits of Pretend Play
To be motivated to engage in pretend play with your child, it is important to understand its many benefits. Child development experts describe pretend play as one of the most effective activities for preschoolers' brain development. Scientists believe it creates synaptic connections between parts of the brain since pretend play involves emotion, language, sensory motor skills, and more. An increase in synapses means greater brain power and higher intelligence, so this kind of play should be actively and regularly encouraged.
Other benefits of pretend play include better social skills, increased self-confidence, empathy for others, and greater imagination. Now that you can appreciate the benefits of pretend play, here are some suggestions to help you get started:
Airplane: Let your child be the pilot on your pretend voyage.
Your Role: Passenger or co-pilot
Materials: Tickets, Suitcases, Play Food, Tray, Old Magazines
Craft: Your child can draw landscape scenery to be used as the view from the window of the plane.
Books to Read: All Aboard Airplanes by Frank Evans, Amazing Airplanes by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker
School: Your child will have fun pretending to be the teacher.
Your Role: Student
Materials: Pencils, Paper, Chalkboard, Chalk, Books
Craft: Make a school bus using an empty tissue box, yellow paint, cardboard wheels, and glue.
Books to Read: How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague, Curious George's First Day of School by H. A. Rey
Library: This is a great way to incorporate story time with pretend play.
Your Role: Librarian
Materials: Bookcase filled with books, paper slips, stamp pad, stamps
Craft: Make a bookmark with some cardboard, hole punch, ribbon, and clear contact paper.
Books to Read: Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk, "L" Is for Library by Sonya Terry and Nicole Wong
Business Office: Children love to imitate adults. Make pretend phone calls, send faxes, etc.
Your Role: Desk Job Worker
Materials: paper, pens, old keyboard, play phone
Craft: Make a pencil holder with an empty tin can, fabric, and fabric glue.
Books to Read: At Dads' Office by Hiroshi Matsushima
Restaurant: Your child will enjoy cooking for you.
Your Role: Customer
Materials: play food (or make food out of Play-Doh), menu, tray, table, small pad of paper (to take orders), pencil, apron
Craft: Make place mats with wax paper and crayon shavings. Arrange crayon shavings between two sheets of wax paper. Place an old pillow case on top and iron to melt the wax and seal up the paper.
Books to Read: Fast Food! Gulp! Gulp! by Bernard Waber
Store: Practice early math skills with this role-playing game.
Your Role: Cashier
Materials: play cash register, play money, play food, basket, paper bags
Craft: Decorate paper bags to use at the store with markers and stickers.
Books to Read: Grocery Store by Angela Leeper
Tea Party: Improve social skills in a safe pretend environment. Invite dolls and teddy bears to join you.
Your Role: Guest
Materials: Play Tea Set (Tip -- kids love to fill the tea pot with water!), big hats, white gloves, doilies, lace tablecloth
Craft: Make lace invitations with doilies, stickers, glitter, and markers.
Books to Read: I'm a Little Teapot by Iza Trapani
The most important thing to remember is to have fun, and give your child plenty of attention during pretend play to help build self-esteem. Your time and attention will show acceptance and appreciation for your child's magical world. Also, let your child take the lead in this type of play (within the constraints of safety, of course). This will allow your child to test different role scenarios in a safe, supportive environment. Enjoy this precious time in childhood and encourage pretend play whenever possible—you will teach your child skills to last a lifetime.