Enhancing various essential skills:
Pretend play can often be underestimated when it comes to a child’s development, but it can help your child in so many ways. In pretend play a child is using their imagination to make real or invisible objects, along with the environment around them, come to life. You probably have witnessed your child do something similar to these examples: they pick up a stick and pretend it is an airplane flying to grandma’s house in another state, or they use their blanket as a superhero cape to help set the table for dinner. This fantasy play can be tons of fun and appear effortless for a child, but their pretend play is enhancing various essential skills the more they engage in it. Here are some vital skills that are being used during pretend play:
In pretend play children are receiving great practice talking and building their vocabulary. When a child is engaging in pretend play with their peers or adults, they are being introduced to new words, learning how to structure phrases and organize their language. Sometimes you may hear your child use words or phrases you use frequently in their pretend play. Your child is learning from you and utilizing your vocabulary as well.
Social and emotional skills
When your child is involved in pretend play, they are actively learning how to socialize and understand the feelings of others. They are learning to take turns with objects and roles involved in the play, and they are developing friendships and creating stronger bonds with peers. When they are pretending to be a character, they take on a different perspective. An example of this is if they are pretending to play a doctor, they put themselves in a doctor’s shoes and play a role of a caring, patient, and brave individual. Helping them develop empathy and a sense of what others are feeling.
Pretend play brings about a variety of situations to consider for a child, and if they are playing with others, they have to learn to consider the opinions and needs of the other people involved in the play (such as deciding what roles to play, materials needed, what to do, and how to overcome conflict in a pretend situation—like what to do if Lily has to help her friends take care of 5 crying babies in the pretend nursery). These problem-solving skills will progressively get stronger and carry on with them into real-life situations into adulthood.
Not only can pretend play develop useful cognitive skills, but it can also help with physical development. When children pretend to be firefighters and have to run to save the burning building, they get in some physical activity. Or if they are putting band-aids on a baby that fell and scraped her knee, they are working on their fine motor skills by peeling and placing the band-aid on the baby.
Here are some tips and ideas for encouraging pretend play at home:
- Create stories with your child. Ask them for character ideas, what the story should be about, what should happen next, and then act it out.
- Provide dolls, puppets, stuffed animals, or other toys for your child to engage in pretend play with. They do not have to be store-bought. You could have your child cut out characters from paper or use anything you have around the house. Remember, children are creative and can work with whatever you have.
- Set up a doctor's office, grocery store, or restaurant. Have your child assist with gathering materials, making props from recycled materials, then have fun pretending and taking turns with different roles.
The younger and more frequently a child can participate in pretend play the more advancements you will see in their skills as they grow. Also, providing plenty of opportunities to engage in pretend play will allow a child to discover their likes, dislikes, and the endless possibilities of what they can do, shaping them to have strong self-esteem and giving them the courage to pursue their goals. Pretend play has so many benefits, and it is an activity that, as a parent, you should make time for regularly to ensure your child is getting the quality pretend playtime that they need for their optimal development.