3 Ways Pretend Play with Apps Can Help Make the Holidays Better for Kids

Kids with special needs and typically developing kids learn through play. Here are some recommendations from speech pathologist and kids' apps expert Betsy Furler.

Parker Barry


By Betsy Furler, Speech Pathologist and Training/Therapy Coordinator for BridgingApps

As a speech pathologist and a mom, I love to use iPads and apps to play with my children and the children I work with. Pretend-play skills are vital to a child’s cognitive and language development. Mr. Rogers once said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”

We need to be mindful of always providing children with the time and space for play. Toys can be cumbersome to bring with you, but an iPad is easily portable, and you can load many apps on the device for a variety of activities. There are some awesome apps that build pretend-play skills and facilitate cooperative play — on the go!

What you’ll need

  • tablet with apps installed

Party prep

Parties can be fun and exciting, they can also overwhelm young children and children with special needs. Apps can help with developing social, party skills during pretend-play activities. With Toca Tea Party and Toca Birthday Party, you can create a social scenario that the child is likely to encounter. With the play during the apps, practice conversation as well as table manners. When do you say “please” and “thank you”? What do you do if you spill your drink? What if you don’t like your present? Using these pretend play party apps, you and your child can work through all these scenarios, preparing the child for the real-life situation.

My recommendations, with BridgingApps reviews:


Doll play

I love to play with dolls and dollhouses with the kids I work with. Doll play provides great opportunities to work on expressive and receptive language and social skills. Children and their parents can also act out relationships during play with dolls. A physical dollhouse is great at home, but a dollhouse app is wonderful on the go.

During school breaks, many families travel to friends’ and relatives’ homes. This can be stressful for young children and children with special needs. Using pretend play and a dollhouse app, you can play out possible scenarios with your child and decrease the stress of new places and activities.

An example of an activity would be to use app such as Toca Life: Town or Toca Life: City, or the My PlayHomes apps, to act out the events of the day. If you have shopping to do, use the dollhouse apps to make up a story about the sequence of shopping and errands. You and your child can act through all the conversations and activities that may happen during the day.

My recommendations, with BridgingApps reviews:



Cooking with kids is another fun activity that’s great for development of language and cognitive skills. Cooking activities provide opportunities for conversation, following directions, math skills, science and cooperation. You can also weave in lessons about colors, numbers, shapes, textures and tastes during cooking activities. On the go, or when you don’t have the energy to clean the kitchen, a cooking apps is a fun activity to do with your kids.

Using the following cooking play apps, talk with your child about different types of food and how we prepare food. Work on sequencing skills and the importance of following directions.  Talk about trying new foods and about manners needed when eating in public.

My recommendations, with BridgingApps reviews:


Please visit us at BridgingApps to learn about using apps and mobile devices with children of all ages and abilities!

Betsy Furler is a speech pathologist and training/therapy coordinator for BridgingApps. She is the mom of two sons, Henry and Sam.

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