Let’s strap on our thinking caps, get our creative juices flowing, imagine, and PLAY! “Pretend play” is a wonderful combination of these exhilarating activities – and an engaging favorite of all children!
One of the most wonderful things about children is their amazing wonder and uninhabited creativity. You can give a child one empty cardboard box and watch him or her amuse themselves for hours. That one box can become a spaceship, a car, a castle, a fort, a time machine, and more! As the imagination soars to new heights, did you know your child is actually developing important mental and physical processes too? Pretend play is not only a super fun experience, but it is also an extremely important developmental and educational tool. When children are able to imagine a play situation (such as “playing house”) they enhance social skills and emotional development. Often, children will pretend play by taking on new roles such as teacher, mommy, daddy, firefighter, police officer etc. By playing different roles children learn how to look at situations from different perspectives – giving them a better understanding of social relationships. While playing a certain role children are able to experiment feeling different emotions in a safe environment which they are in complete control of. Pretend play often involves other children as well, widening your child’s ability to interact with people in many different situations.
Beyond the wonderful social benefits, imaginative play also helps your child develop problem solving skills, academic skills, and even motor skills!
Whether they are pretending to be a princess or a pirate, children have to overcome many obstacles in order to carry out their pretend play. Given many problems, children learn how to successfully solve them. For example, if your children are pretend playing “castle” there’s no real castle around to play in, there are no real knights in shinning amour, and there are no real kings or queens. However, children can use their imagination to solve these problems. They can pretend their bed is a castle, their stuffed animals can become daring knights, and they themselves can become kings or queens!
Academic skills even improve when children engage in pretend play. The fact that children must create a story with a plot line to follow as they play gives children a great introduction to literacy and language arts skills. Vocabulary is improved as well as children practice communicating with themselves and others in a way that’s fun for them and still educational.
Pretend play also benefits motor skills in children of all ages. Pretend play allows children to engage in activities they may not usually participate in. For example, when pretend playing “school” children often draw or write to simulate a classroom activity. If your child does not usually practice handwriting, this activity is an excellent way to enhance fine motor skills involving writing or drawing, while still having great fun. Pretend play can also involve large movement. For example, dancing, running, jumping, and even walking in younger children are all enhanced by active imaginative activities.
So how can you enhance your child’s pretend play skills? The best way is through supporting your child and encouraging their imagination. If your child is engaging in dramatic play or magic tricks you should be a part of their audience, showing that you believe in their creative make-believe. Also, if you know your child is interested in a certain subject, help them find a way to incorporate that into their pretend play. If you are ever stuck, keep in mind that Educational Toys Planet offers groupings of toys that can help stimulate imaginative dress up, pirate toys, princess play, play food, career play and more. Look for toys that encourage group activity or creativity. Make sure your child is excited about playing – if he or she is eager to play they will get the most educational benefit out of the activity as well.
Now that you know how amazing and fantastic Pretend Play can be, it’s time to get your child involved. Let’s all transport ourselves to a castle, a pirate ship, a spy base, or outer space! Now we can all imagine, create, laugh, share, learn, and most importantly PLAY!