An exploratory study of children's pretend play when using a switch-controlled assistive robot to manipulate toys

Kim D. Adams, Adriana M.Rios Rincón, Lina M. Becerra Puyo, Javier L. Castellanos Cruz, María F. Gómez Medina, Al M. Cook, Pedro Encarnação

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Introduction Assistive robots could be a means for children with physical disabilities to manipulate toys and for occupational therapists to track children's play development. This study aimed to (a) establish if free play set-ups without and with a robot would elicit a developmental sequence of play in typically developing children, (b) determine if the robot affected children's play and (c) observe the play schemes that children performed. Method An experimental crossover design was conducted. Thirty typically developing children between the ages of 3 and 8 years old performed free play activities with conventional toys or unstructured materials without and with a switch-controlled Lego Mindstorms robot. Children's pretend and functional play was analyzed using a coding scheme developed for the present study. Results There was a trend, increasing with age, for pretend play without the robot with unstructured materials (p =.002), and with the robot, for conventional toys (p = 0.015) and unstructured materials (p = 0.027). Younger children exhibited more pretend play without the robot than with it. Conclusion Assistive robots and appropriate play set-ups can provide a method to measure the play development level of children with disabilities, and support pretend play. Suggestions to support pretend play when children with disabilities use assistive robots are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)216-224
Number of pages8
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Occupational Therapy

Cite this

Adams, K. D., Rincón, A. M. R., Becerra Puyo, L. M., Castellanos Cruz, J. L., Gómez Medina, M. F., Cook, A. M., & Encarnação, P. (2017). An exploratory study of children's pretend play when using a switch-controlled assistive robot to manipulate toys. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 80(4), 216-224.,