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Children love to use their imagination while they play.
They can turn any pile of blankets into a secret hideout or have a full conversation between a toy soldier and a teddy bear.
Though we may smile as we watch and think “how cute!” this is actually helping them develop in many unseen ways!
Discussed below are a few reasons as to why play is important for children.
What Is Pretend Play?
Pretend Play is when children act out themselves or through toys or other people something they have imagined.
This could be based off of something from real life, completely made up, or a mixture of reality and fantasy.
Have you ever seen a child leap off the couch “flying” to save their dump truck from toppling over?
In their mind, they may have just imagined themselves as superman leaping off a 10-story building to save other people from driving over a dangerous ledge.
Another child could be found ‘feeding’ their doll before kissing them on the forehead and putting them down to sleep.
Their play will often reflect behaviors they have observed in other people.
This type of play helps children overcome fears of new situations, express their own ideas and feelings, and practice new-found knowledge through experience.
There are many wonderful benefits to allowing children time and providing resources to pretend play.
Some additional benefits include providing ample opportunities to practice how to positively interact with others, learning new vocabulary words, and improving thinking skills.
Improve Social Skills
Pretend play can help a child learn how to share with others, take responsibility for their actions, and solve their own problems.
This type of play sets the stage for kids to make friends with other kids.
They go up and say something like “Let’s pretend that…….”
This begins a world of fantasy that holds a role for all involved.
Each child is able to interact with others in a safe environment that could lead to an ongoing friendship.
As they are playing with others, children learn to share.
There is often a single toy that seems to catch the eye of all present (or it at least catches the eye of one child who makes it look SO desirable;)).
Suddenly it seems all the other toys in the room fade away and their singular focus is on that one great toy.
This becomes a key time for growth.
Both ‘sides’ have an opportunity in this moment.
The child who found the desired toy has the chance to offer it to the other child or invite them to play along with them.
The child who wants the toy has the chance to accept an invitation to play, wait for their own turn, or find something else to play with.
Children see themselves as the center of their world.
They learn to notice others and recognize others’ feelings as they learn and grow through playing.
Children role-play as different characters, helping them begin to see the world around them through different lenses.
They represent different points of view while their toys/objects have conversations and come to a conclusion about something.
Pretend play can also help a child learn how to express themselves more positively as they use their emotions to communicate.
Enhance Language Skills
Children can give life to any toy or object.
They will describe everything that is happening as they play.
Toy Soldier: “Come on everyone, we are going to line up over here.” Teddy Bear: “Let’s go, guys!”
Like a sponge, children soak up everything around them.
Often times they will be heard imitating their parents, teachers, siblings, etc. Hence the reminder to “watch what we say.” 🙂
Speaking these things out loud gives a child the opportunity to use the words and phrases in context that they have heard others say.
It also encourages them to use words and phrases they wouldn’t normally use because they are pretending to be someone/something else.
As they play with others they get real time practice with asking and answering relevant questions.
As a child begins to read, they will often insert words and phrases from their stories as well.
This type of play helps them connect the spoken and written language.
Sharpen Thinking Skills
Pretend play can sharpen a child’s thinking skills.
They have to make many choices while they play.
Which material will work best as a wall?
How can I link this track together to allow the car to slide all the way to the end?
Where would be the best place to build a fort?
Should I let my friend play with this toy?
A variety of situations happen as they play.
This helps them make connections between what they are doing with their toys and real-world applications.
These skills will be learned, refined, and then utilized throughout their lives.
Play time gives kids an opportunity to problem solve.
They may sometimes make mistakes that will allow them to find a different solution that best solves the dilemma.
As children grow they begin to understand that life happens in sequences.
Acting out full stories while they play can also help them better understand a logical sequence of events. We put our socks on before our shoes. We get a cup out, pour the milk into it, and then drink it.
Pretend play provides plenty of space to try out new ideas and new ways to think.
Pretend play is an excellent way for children to experiment with the world around them.
They can insert themselves into any role, real or imagined.
The possibilities are as numerous as an imagination can conjure up.
One thing we can always count on in life is change.
Play gives children the necessary tools to more easily adapt to change. Adding yet another useful life skill to their life tool belt.
This then leads us to consider which educational toys could best support the development of these skills when linked with pretend play. Click below to read about 4 Fun Ways to Pretend Play with Toys!
What do you think about pretend play? Please share your comments and questions below!
Click here to read about 4 Fun Ways to Pretend Play with Toys!