If your child loves pretending and engaging in dramatic play or games, they are learning and developing. Pretend play is an excellent way to learn to solve a problem, socialize, cooperate, use intellectual flexibility, and boost creativity.
Indeed, pretend activity offers all these benefits. Yet, pretend play’s educational value is often devaluated because it is fun, although many studies have proven that children learn better when they have fun.
What’s more beneficial to cognitive development than using imagination to create situations, become someone else, alleviate fears, develop communication, thinking strategies, and cooperate to achieve a goal?
Pretend Play is Learning
Pretend play is more complex than it appears. Where adults would see a game, children actively learn about themselves, others, and their environment.
A child engaging in pretend play is intellectually multitasking, experimenting with making sense of the world around them. It is a hands-on experience of the world, an opportunity to come back on patterns that they observed, memorized, and try their own version.
Ultimately, your child learns essential skills, like distributing roles, leadership, developing a scenario, clarifying expectations, and how to deal with different opinions or ideas.
In other words, pretend play helps them to learn how to interact with others. It is an essential skill that helps us evolve in society in any aspect of life. While maturing knowledge and emotional intelligence, your child learns concepts and symbols by using imagination.
Once involved in playing, they will learn to take turns and self-regulate emotions even without adult intervention to regulate and direct them into behavioral patterns.
Pretend play helps children cope with scary or emotionally involved events. For instance, your last “scary” wellness at the pediatrician can become a play from the child’s perspective.
Have you ever observed your child pretend that a toy is sick and give it an injection?
It is how pretend play can be cathartic for specific life events. In a way, adopting the parent or pediatrician’s point of view, in our example, can help them prepare for future wellness visits.
Pretend Play is Simple
You do not need to invest in extravagant toy sets. Although many online shops sell pretend play playsets, all you need is imagination and eventually cardboard boxes and a doll or stuffed animal.
Anyone can turn a cardboard box into a spaceship, a car, a storefront, or a pirate ship with the strength of imagination. If you run out of ideas, take some pillows, blankets, or chairs and create a fort together, and you are good for hours of fun.
The most important is to engage with your child. Trigger the game, and why not be part of the pretend play? It is a great way to bond with your child while helping them to learn.
It is also an opportunity to reverse the roles.
Let them lead the game and try to follow their instructions. It is an excellent way to develop their sense of independence, self-esteem, and leadership.
Adults tend to regulate the activity and guide children. Sometimes in excess. Unless they ask your specific input to generate prompts or an idea, let them come up with the ideas and create their scenario.
Let Children Be Children
It is important to keep these islands of fun and pure imagination in a schedule timed with activities. If you see your child creating a universe of fun, do not interrupt them; just let them carry on. No guided activity or practice can replace minutes of pretend play.
So, next time you see your child play pretending they are grocery shopping, enjoying tea time, or pretending they are superheroes, join them. Be part of the fun.
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Willowdale Children's Academy is a child care agency located in Chester County, PA, specialized in early learning with schools in Chadds Ford, Kennett Square, Avondale, and West Chester, PA. We offer programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, after school care, and summer camps.