Our imagination invites us into a world of pretend play, something which benefits all children. It comes as no surprise then, that for many generations people have said that play one of the most important things a child can do. Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” While Charles Schaefer, who is seen as the ‘Father of Play Therapy’ said, “We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.” But just why is pretend play so important to our children and how can we encourage it? Let’s explore …
What is Pretend Play?
Pretend play is also known as imaginative play, creative play and make-believe play. It’s all about using your imagination to pretend you are somewhere else or someone else. Imaginative play is a way of making sense of the world, helping kids to learn practical life and social skills. There are two types of make-believe play:
- Fantasy Play – starts around two years of age and is when a child talks out loud explaining what they are pretending to do.
- Sociodramatic Play – when the child stays in character and does not say aloud that what they are doing is pretend.
What Are the Benefits of Pretend Play?
Kids learn through playing! By imagining and doing things, your child learns more than they would by listening to instructions on how to do something. It’s an essential part in developing their:
- Language Skills – by copying what they’ve heard others say and even making up their own language, children start to learn the building blocks of their spoken language. This helps them get ready to learn how to read and write when they get older.
- Social and Emotional Skills – this teaches skills such as sharing, turn taking and being responsible, as well as increasing their self-esteem.
- Thinking Skills – when a child is playing, they are faced with problems they need to solve. This is when cognitive thinking skills are developed, helping prepare your child for real life problem solving situations in the future.
How Can I Encourage My Child to Use Their Imagination More?
It’s easy to encourage your child to engage in make-believe play. Simply give them a place to play and plenty of props to use. Some of the best props are ones kids can wear. When you have a range of dress up clothes, it is easy for a child to assume the role of that character when they wear it. From dinosaur dress ups to favourite TV characters from shows such as Bubble Guppies and Trolls, dressing up makes pretend play even more fun!
Along with dressing up clothes, help set the stage for their play by organising many props they can use too. Cardboard boxes make great doll beds, ovens and even cars. Old telephones and plastic plates can spark a game of ringing to buy a pizza or visiting a café.
I’d love to hear about how you have fostered your child’s play! What props did you use? Where did you set up a play area? How often do you play imaginary games together? Tell me below and remember, if you are looking for some fabulous dress ups, Squoodles has them!