Young children learn a lot through pretend play, By pretending that their doll is a firefighter or their hand is a tennis racquet or that their crayon box is a spacecraft going to the Moon, they are learning about each and every one of these things and actions. We address here the benefits of pretend play, and how you can encourage it.
Pretend play also offers a great opportunity to help children learn.
Pretend play usually starts from 18 months onwards, and typically gets going full steam ahead by 2 years of age. But even before 18 months, children will indulge in early pretend play like making some gestures and sounds like other objects.
Pretend play increases creativity
Creativity is fostered by thinking about things in a new way. When that dog toy becomes a dinosaur and the blue building blocks become an ocean or when the cardboard box becomes a fairy castle and the doll becomes a fairy princess, your preschooler is indulging in symbolic play, where one object represents another. When children do this they are not limiting themselves to the object in hand. Instead, they are enhancing it with their imagination to be something else. This is the essence of creativity.
Pretend play helps social skills
Children often get together and indulge in pretend play. During this they do a lot of negotiation because nothing in their reach, is what it seems. And each one of them imagines it as something else, and thus conflicts occur and need resolution. So if they are having a pretend tea party, there maybe debates about whether the star shaped flash card is a cookie or not,or if the red building block is the cake and so on. These are usually resolved by give and take between the children. Children realize very quickly that to go ahead and indulge their imagination, they have to agree rather than disagree (Though they may practice it well, they may not fully comprehend this behaviour yet) .
Pretend play helps language skills
Often children will use words that do not exist in any language. This gibberish is part of their pretend play. Sometimes, they will use expressions that they have heard from us, because they are pretending to be us. All of these help them learn how to use language, how to put together sounds and helps them learn languages.
Pretend play helps emotional skills
Children are learning all the time. Sometimes, they see and experience situations in real life that they may not understand fully. This could be simple or complicated. For example, they may have had a fight in preschool about sharing something or they have may have seen something they do not understand, like an argument between adults. They may just act it out so they can start understanding it.
How can parents encourage pretend play
- Play along. Leave your rational thinking aside. Above all, do not discourage the child.
- Pretend to be someone or something too
- If children give you a role, participate wholeheartedly
- Give them props to play with (a towel for a cape, a hat for a princess' crown, a train ticket to be used as a map etc.,)
How to use pretend play as a learning opportunity
Pretend play is a great opportunity to teach a child new things. They are very receptive to new material they can use during pretend play. For example, if your child is pretending to be an astronaut, talk about the planets and get them involved in the pretend play. This will help children learn about the planets. You can encourage this learning by participating in the pretend play and by asking leading questions that increase your child's curiosity and then give them answers that will help them understand the topic more. By entwining their imagination and interest with new knowledge, you will help them develop into intelligent, confident and creative adults.