Pretend City Successfully Addressing Social-Emotional & Language Delays

Being a parent is exceptionally hard work. You’re tasked with the job of guiding a human being to success, nurturing their passions, loving them for their imperfections, and discouraging unkind behaviors. All while attending to milestone delays in age-appropriate ways.


This all got so much harder in our new post-quarantine world. Suddenly there are expectations and consequences, but no one is quite sure the way in which they’ll manifest. Sure, our children will be impacted by quarantine – but how and when? This conundrum created an opportunity for Pretend City Children’s Museum to significantly impact local families:


The museum has spent the last 12 years providing parents with child development resources, and come 2021, they’re only hastening their efforts. The goal – to empower caretakers with the ability to understand, assess, and facilitate their child’s growth, all while factoring in play! They way in which they do so? Through an A.S.Q.


A.S.Q. stands for Ages and Stages Questionnaire. It’s a screening that pinpoints the developmental progress of a child including communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social skills. It’s conducted by the parent, evaluated by Pretend city, and then used by teachers and pediatricians to celebrate milestones and identify delays.


Since Pretend City reopened in March of 2021, their education department has received hundreds of A.S.Q.s to analyze. About 80% reveal potential language and social-emotional delays; in previous years, language and social-emotional delays were only seen about 20% of the time.


Off the bat, this seems to indicate that there’s a whole new epidemic; what it truly signifies is that parents are seeking aid for immediate course-correction. Statistically, the sooner parents connect with intervention resources, the sooner the issue can be addressed, and children can avoid larger, snowballed consequences.


Coming out of quarantine, most children have spent inordinate amounts of time with their family. As a result, their parents have a greater understanding who that child is – allowing them to conduct the A.S.Q. with accuracy. The downside though, is that these children have been engaging solely with their family, which is the obvious culprit for these missed social-emotion and language milestones.


The other benefit of Pretend City, though, is the unconstrained human interaction. The City, built one third to scale to better accommodate little humans, fosters an environment in which a child is encouraged to socialize, negotiate, and communicate with other children in order to successfully navigate the museum as a whole.


After reopening their doors, the mission moments and uplifting success stories started pouring in:


One family purchased a membership and begun attending daily because their two-year-old son spent the bulk of his language-forming years in quarantine and was starved for interaction. Each time he entered Pretend City, he would bound fearlessly toward other children, hoping to make new friends to play with.


Another mother brought in her three-year-old daughter after she refused to engage with other toddlers. Pretend City provided a safe environment where her daughter could grow confidence and a better understanding of how other children operate.


A third family had their nanny bring their child weekly because it was a safe, clean place to have hands-on experiences. They wanted to contradict the previous year, a time in which even the most banal tasks were stigmatized with a looming sense of anxiety and fear. Now, at Pretend City, the child could shop at Trader Joe’s, deliver packages, pump gas – and do so confidently.


Each of these stories exemplify the importance of play, as well as personalized assessment. Each child has different barriers to overcome, but the prescription of play is the same. And then it’s up to the child and parent to navigate the dosage, empowered by the knowledge that comes through their A.S.Q. and Pretend City resources.