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  • Writer's pictureClaire Hsieh

Understanding Learn to Play Therapy: A Guide for Parents and Carers

Introduction to Learn to Play Therapy

Learn to Play Therapy is a specialized program designed for children aged 18 months to 10 years who encounter difficulties in playing with toys or interacting with friends. The primary focus of this therapy is on pretend play, starting with a pretend play assessment in the first session.

What is Learn to Play Therapy? Read more in our blog

Why Pretend Play?

Pretend play is a sophisticated form of play that doesn't naturally develop in many children. It involves imaginative thinking and creativity, providing a crucial avenue for developmental growth.

Developmental Milestones in Pretend Play

As children engage in pretend play, several developmental milestones become evident:

  1. Enhanced Social Skills: Children may exhibit improved social behavior, such as watching others play instead of interrupting or actively participating in play with siblings or friends.

  2. Understanding Emotions: Pretend play allows children to explore emotions through their toys, developing their capacity to take on roles and understand different emotions.

  3. Language Development: Engaging in pretend play encourages children to use language, fostering an increase in verbal communication skills.

  4. Cognitive Strategies: As children progress in pretend play, therapists introduce challenges, encouraging them to think critically and problem-solve within the context of the play.

  5. Increased Happiness: Play induces a sense of happiness by releasing chemicals in the brain, fostering a positive attitude towards interacting with peers.

Learn to Play Therapy Sessions

In therapy sessions, the primary goal is to ensure the child feels safe and engaged. Therapists use play, eye contact, voice modulation, and movement to convey enjoyment in playing with the child.

Key Techniques Used in Sessions:

  1. Modelling Play: Therapists actively engage with toys, inviting children and parents to join in the play.

  2. Repetition with Variation: Therapists focus on a single play activity for an extended period, reinforcing understanding and familiarity.

  3. Tracking the Play: Therapists discuss and narrate the play as the child participates, encouraging communication.

  4. Challenging the Child: Gradually introducing more complex pretend play activities, therapists adapt to the child's responses and engagement.

Parental Involvement in Sessions

Parents play a crucial role in the child's Learn to Play Therapy journey. They are encouraged to participate according to their comfort level, either actively engaging in play or observing. Parental involvement contributes significantly to the child's positive experience in therapy.

In summary, Learn to Play Therapy is a comprehensive approach fostering developmental milestones through imaginative and purposeful play. If you're considering this therapy for your child, understanding its principles and techniques can provide valuable insights into the positive impact it can have on your child's growth and well-being.

Learn to Play Therapy - Workshop

Learn to Play Workshop is making a return in March - April 2024, exclusively tailored for therapists (Occupational Therapists, Special Educators, Early Childhood Interventionists, and Mental Health Professionals), and teachers (Pre-school Teachers, Shadow Teachers, Learning Support Heads, and Principals). This comprehensive workshop offers valuable insights into the significance of play within the curriculum, equipping teachers with the tools to identify, administer, score, and interpret a group-based assessment – the Pretend Play Checklist for Teachers (PPCT). Participants will delve into innovative pedagogical practices to enhance student engagement and learn how to plan classroom-based play scenarios that support children's learning and developmental outcomes.

The two-day workshop covers essential aspects, including understanding the Learn to Play Framework, connecting pretend play development to literacy, narrative understanding, social competence, and self-regulation. Participants will explore the connection between brain development, emotional regulation, and pretend play development, gaining insights into assessment using the Pretend Play Checklist for Therapists and Teachers through case studies and video analysis.

Day two focuses on Learn To Play principles, planning, and implementation. Participants will understand the concept of responding to the child, explore key play skills, and engage in video analysis to identify play skills. The workshop concludes with an emphasis on approach planning, goal setting, and strategies to link pretend play development with self-regulation and social competence.

Led by experienced presenters, including Dr. Siobhan Casey, a renowned pediatric occupational therapist, and Emeritus Professor Karen Stagnitti, the developer of Learn to Play Therapy, this workshop promises an enriching experience for therapists and teachers. Attendees will receive valuable resources, including the Pretend Play Checklist for Teachers manual and the recently released book, "Learning Through Play in the Primary School."

Express your interest today and take the first step toward enhancing your teaching practices. Apply to secure your spot in this transformative Learn to Play Workshop for teachers and get an early bid discount before December 31, 2023.

View Learn to Play and Express your Interest:


  1. Learn to Play Events. (n.d.). For Therapists. Retrieved from

  2. Learn to Play Events. (2021). Parental Information Flyer. Retrieved from

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