How To Nurture Pretend Play
Kids engaged in pretend-play has always been a source of entertainment for parents. You can’t really count the times you’ve had to pretend to drink a cup of coffee from your child’s kitchen set or sit in their “car” and go vrooooom! Pretend play brings to life a world of imagination to children.
What is Pretend Play
Play by itself is an integral and indispensable part of childhood. It is what comes naturally to children. The benefits of play are immense. From creating curiosity, encouraging exploration, to sparking imagination, one simply cannot ignore the benefits of play. Pretend play is an important part of childhood development. Also known as make-believe or imaginative play, it is a form of play where children use objects or actions to represent other ideas or actions using their imagination.
Pretend play first emerges in typically developing babies around their first birthday, between the ages of 11 -18 months, becoming more social around 3-5 years of age. A baby using a spoon pretending to feed their doll or holding a book for a phone are almost universal actions.
The Importance of Pretend Play
Pretend play is driven by imagination and is important to a child’s development skills. As much as a child’s pretend games seem unreal to you, to a child, they are very real. Imaginative play is reflective of a child’s development because it shows that the child has been observing his parents and surroundings, learning from their environment and using their imagination, all of which are important characteristics of development.
Benefits of pretend play
Language and Communication skills
If you observe a toddler playing, you will notice how they use phrases and language they’ve been exposed to. Ever watched in awe how much your preschooler has observed their teacher and can do a good impression of them at home?
Social and Emotional Skills
When children engage in pretend play, they assume different roles, thereby experimenting with the characteristics of other people. This means they might act caring and nurturing when they pretend to mother their doll or appear busy and engrossed while working like they see their parents.
Pretend play is built on imagination. Being able to see an object beyond its typical use and assign a new role to it takes thinking skills. A stone can become a car or a basket, a hat, because of imagination.
How To Nurture Pretend Play
Pretend play comes naturally to children but there’s also plenty you can do to encourage it.
Choose your toys wisely
In his book “Simplicity Parenting” Kim John Payne suggests that the best way to encourage play in a child is to avoid giving them a toy that does everything for them. A toy that opens and closes or plays music at the touch of a button doesn’t give much opportunity to the child to explore or experiment. Instead, simple everyday objects can be perfect for sparking creative play.
Give them empty boxes and cartons
These are the best and almost indispensable and you’ll be amazed at how creative your child can get in using them. From making a home to using it like a car, your child will have a field day with an empty carton.
This needn’t be anything fancy but an assortment of hats and accessories, a costume or two, some play glasses and your child will go from being a pirate to a teacher to a clown in minutes.
Add a box of pretend toys to their toy collection. A few kitchen items like spoons and vessels, old phones, a tool kit can add much value. Not only will it encourage pretend play but also keep your child actively engaged and occupied. Win-win.
Encourage “out of the box” play
This one is easier said than done. Often you may see your child ignore the instructions and use their toy differently. This might not sit well with you but what your child is doing is using their imagination to see a toy beyond its regular use. So the next time, they want to use the jenga blocks to build a road, allow them to take the lead.
Stuffed animals or dolls
Most children will have a favourite among all. You can encourage your child to “take care” of their doll and in all probability you will see their nurturing side emerge
In today’s fast and busy world, filled with structure and scheduled activities, our children sometimes miss out on the joys of free, unstructured play. One cannot simply deny its importance. Playing mummy and daddy, or setting up a restaurant that serves only ice cream for breakfast, prancing around in daddy’s shoes, enjoying a tea party with a teddy or climbing a mountain of pillows are all opportunities that allow our children to think, create, learn empathy and develop problem-solving skills. Allow your child to thrive through a world of imaginative play. Give them the gift of imagination.
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