Invite the child and a second, similarly skilled player to play with you, and then ease yourself out of the situation. Avoid trying to match the best player or the most popular child with the least-skilled player. The disparities in skill may be too great for the play to continue. Remember that children are sensitive to social status in developing their play roles players in the group. Consider ulterior conversations, underscoring, storytelling, prompting, or formal pretend proposals.
For example, when one player seems exasperated with the inability of another to play a role correctly, lean over the props and stage whisper directions: “Whisper to the mail carrier that she is supposed to give the letters to other people, not read them herself.” Or perhaps if the play theme seems to be floundering, suggest the storytelling approach to one of the players: “Think what would happen if there were an earthquake, and the city had to be rebuilt. Tell the story.” Demonstrate how to use nonverbal play signals when they would facilitate the play.
For instance, show a child how to “fall ill” just outside the pretend hospital by making moans and holding a part of the body as if in pain. Show a child how to portray being a sad “baby” outside the housekeeping area as a way to get a response from other players. Some children may need much more support and direction than others, but play skills can be learned and enhanced.