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How to Adapt Dramatic Activities for Children With Special Needs

by Shelley Frost, studioD

Dramatic play activities touch on multiple areas of development, including social skills, emotional understanding, motor skills, language development and cognitive skills. A dramatic play area should accommodate all kids who use it, including those with special needs. Adaptations are often simple and inexpensive, depending on the specific needs of the kids. The changes allow for easier access and use of the props. The modifications allow all children to engage in and benefit from dramatic play activities.

Assess the specific special needs within the group to identify the type of modifications that are needed. Look at both physical and cognitive delays that could affect how a child uses the dramatic play area. For example, a child with a visual impairment may have difficulty locating the different props in the area.

Arrange a large enough space that allows all kids to play. This is particularly important if a child has a wheelchair or a walker that makes it difficult to navigate. A wide entrance and plenty of empty space allow the child to play without bumping into objects.

Collect a variety of props and dramatic play toys to accommodate different ability levels. For example, choose objects with large grips so a child with limited hand movement can hold them. Choose dress-up clothes that are easy to pull on if a child cannot fasten buttons.

Organize the pretend play area so that every item has a specific spot. This creates predictability for kids with special needs so they can find the props or costumes they want. Make large labels with both words and pictures that are easy to see.

Store dramatic play props in containers that are easy for everyone who uses the space to open. A container with a screw-on lid may keep small props secure, but a child with low muscle tone or poor coordination won't be able to open the container on her own.

Add pictures to offer ideas of how to use the dramatic play center. Kids who cannot hear or understand verbal instructions use the photos to figure out how to play.

Items you will need
  •  Props
  •  Costumes
  •  Storage containers


  • Watching a child with special needs play with the dramatic play toys gives you an idea of other ways to adapt the space. Look for parts of the pretend play area that give the child trouble so you can make those tasks easier.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience come from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images