This is my favorite list of pretend play ideas for kids with autism! Developing pretend play skills can be very challenging for children with autism. Working on developing pretend play skills should be a priority in your child’s program.
Engaging your child in pretend play helps develop creativity, promotes behavioral flexibility and increase opportunities for learning.
10 Pretend Play Ideas for Children with Autism
1. Create a tiger house by Picklebums
This activity is adorable and hands on. You can work on the related vocabulary words in addition to the manual activity : tiger, jungle, box, stone, orange and black.
2. DIY pretend play pasta, chocolate chip cookies and sponge cake by Special Learning House
We have enjoyed hours of learning fun at my learning center with these fun pretend food activities. The pasta is one of my personal favorites!
3. DIY hardware store, gas pump and rocket ship by Special Learning House
Everything you need to make your own hardware store, gas pump & rocket ship!
4. Making cave art in a cardboard cave by Adventure in a Box
This is such a sweet craft. Perfect to make out in the garden (or in your living room). I recommend pairing it with one of my favorite classic books that is perfect as part of a home or classroom programs for special needs learners : We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.
Related post : Increase Your Child’s Vocabulary with These Board Books
5. DIY cardboard dollhouses by Special Learning House
I love using dollhouses in my specialized programs for children with autism. They are a fabulous tool for teaching such everyday vocabulary as : house, door, table, chair, bedroom, kitchen and more!
6. DIY plantable felt gardens by Special Learning House
These DIY plantable felt garden projects have been very popular in the past with learners at my ABA center in Paris. They are fun and easy to put together and so fun. They are some of my favorite pretend play ideas. Added bonus : once you’ve created them you can bring them out again and again! You can use them to teach vocabulary, build fine motor skills, as part of a sensory schedule and more!
(photo : DIY Symbolic Play Garden from Habitat at Home)
7. Pretend play movie theater by Research Parent
This activity is so much fun! Make your own movie tickets and popcorn and enjoy!
Related post : 8 Tips for Enjoying a Movie with Your Autistic Child
8. DIY cardboard mailbox by Little Red Window
Isn’t this little cardboard mailbox the cutest DIY project? I absolutely love it! We have done this project several times with the kids and everyone always loves it. For little ones who are learning to write, have the write a letter to “send”. If your child isn’t writing yet, he or she can draw a picture. Even if your child isn’t drawing yet, he or she can stick some stickers on a piece of paper or small piece of cardboard to “send” a letter!
9. Learn to make your very own play kitchen from At Home with Ashley
There are many ways to make a pretend kitchen. Have your child participate as much as possible in the creation of your little play kitchen. Pro tip : use real (dried) pasta in your play to add a fun sensory component.
10. DIY finger puppets and the cutest finger puppet stages by Special Learning House
Finger puppets are a wonderful tool for teaching pretend play skills. Act out particular actions (jump, walk, lie down…) and build imitation skills with these fun little toys. Added learning bonus if you make your own according to the DIY instructions.
These are some of my favorite toys for creating pretend play programs with autistic learners at home and in the classroom :
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- Learn to Create a Progress Nook for Your Child
- Puzzles for Autism – the 6 puzzles every autistic child needs
- 10 Best Board Books to Teach Children with Autism New Vocabulary
- Easy Quiet Book Patterns – 12 autism-friendly quiet patterns
Enjoy these pretend play ideas!
Let me know what you are going to try with your child in the comments below.
First published December 26, 2017. Last updated April 15, 2021 with more information, additional tips, and better readability.
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