Once upon time, you may have worn your mother’s favorite apron while arranging miniature tea sets on a tiny table, serving imaginary tea and scones to your favorite doll. Or you may have been in command of your action figures, leading them to the battlefield in the center of your living room.
The character you were playing when you were young – a chef in a play kitchen or a general in the Stars Wars of your imagination – are still perhaps being played by many children nowadays. Pretend play is such a source of joy that even with the advent of so many modern games, this old-fashioned imaginative play never loses its appeal.
Promoting Pretend Play
Because of the many benefits it can give, children should be encouraged to engage in pretend play. But never impose the idea or it will lose its appeal. Here are some scenarios for starting a pretend play:
– If you see your little girl constantly dressing up her doll, ask her where her dolly is off to and maybe it’s better for little dolly to have something to eat in the play kitchen before taking off.
– When your little boy is playing with his action figures, comment on how the little ones need the guidance of a teacher or the care of a doctor.
– If your child pretends to be a wild animal ready to pounce on you, go along with it. You can act scared at first and then pretend to tame him by giving imaginary food and petting him on the head.
As children warm up to the idea of role playing, whoever’s babysitting would usually be assigned a role. It may seem ridiculous for a grown up like you to assist in a play kitchen or act as the customer in a lemonade stand the size of your arm. But the benefits it can bring to your child won’t make it so ridiculous anymore.
Benefits of Pretend Play
Social and Emotional Development – Children can become whoever they want to be in pretend play. Because of this, they are able to get a very basic view of how it’s like to be a doctor with his toy hospital or how it’s like to be a chef with her play kitchen. As kids act out the part of somebody else, empathy is planted. When children realize they can be any character they want to be, their self-confidence could grow. And with this comes the desire and strength to explore new things.
Mental Development – Even if it’s just child’s play, there are also many problem-solving situations that children encounter during role playing. It may be a concern on what material should best replace a lost play kitchen spoon or who among the action figures to pick as the second in command. The process of looking for solutions to obstacles develops the analytical skills of your child. It also promotes resourcefulness, creativity, abstract thinking and logical reasoning.
Communication – Whether children are playing with their parents, playmates, dolls or imaginary friends, they will always engage in conversation. A child starts to learn the importance of communication, especially when he or she mimics grown-up talk and actions. When children pretend to read to their dolls or write down grocery lists, they may be motivated to start learning how to read and write.
So encourage your child to pretend play. You can start off by presenting a play kitchen or a doctor’s kit. Remember, the skills that your child learns here are the skills that matter in real life.