How Parents Can Direct Pretend Play
-- Set time limits. Plan ten-minute play sessions once a day — longer periods run the risk of the child falling out of attention, and the parent becoming frustrated. Use toys as props, and suggest that you make up a story about the toy or figure.
-- Prompt your child. Start with "Once upon a time..." and let your child make up and act out the story. You can even play one of the roles in the fantasy, interacting with your child's character.
-- Encourage social behaviors. Interact with your child in ways that encourage him to rehearse social behaviors, experience logical consequences and eventually anticipate outcomes. For example, say: "If the girl breaks all her toys, what will she have to play with?" ADHD children are so used to being chastised and can be more responsive to a correction when it's not directed personally at them.
-- Redirect when necessary. Every time your child veers of track, gently direct her back to the game — for example, say: "I was really interested in that horsey story. Tell me what happens next."
-- Wrap things up. If the child is not finished with the fantasy as the ten-minute period concludes, prompt the ending by saying things like: "Oh, it's getting dark. Time for horsey to get ready to go to bed," or "The boy's mommy is calling him to come home for dinner now." Take another minute to finish the story and put away the toys.
After a few months, you'll probably notice an improvement in your child's ability to stick with the task. At that point, you can step up the challenge gradually by making the themes increasingly more elaborate and even expand the venue of the game from the playroom floor to the whole house.