If you spend time with children, you’ve probably seen them take an ordinary object and turn it into a magical play scenario. From empty boxes to natural objects, children can make-believe with any number of things.
Imaginative play comes naturally to young children, and for good reason: it’s one of the most important tools they have to further their development and learning. Here are some of the ways pretend play supports a child’s development!
Pretend Play Allows For Language Practice
Children are learning new words all the time from those around them. They learn to understand new vocabulary through context clues. Pretend play is a great way to practice new vocabulary. Children might create familiar pretend scenarios and use words they’ve heard in that context, like when they play “house” or “restaurant.”
Extend Your Preschoolers Learning With Pretend Play: When you’re engaging in pretend play with a child, help them extend their play scenario with new words or concepts. For example, if you’re playing restaurant, you can introduce the names of different foods, kitchen tools, or cooking techniques.
Imaginative Play Supports Social and Emotional Growth
When a child uses their imagination, they have an opportunity to practice different social and emotional skills. Often children mimic the emotions they experience in their pretend play, especially negative emotions such as sadness, anger, or fear. Think of this as a practice session for real-life. The child can pretend to experience the negative emotion and then pretend to use a coping skill they’ve learned. They might also “help” someone else who is pretending to be upset. This is all practice for dealing with real-life emotions.
Extend their learning: Don’t be afraid to “pretend” to have varying emotions during your child’s pretend play. A common pretend play scenario is “doctor,” so if you’re pretending to be a patient, describe to your child how you’re feeling scared to get a shot. Their response is great practice for real-life visits to the doctor.
Make-Believe As A Young Child Leads To Stronger Cognitive Skills
Studies show that children who frequently engage in pretend play have more academic success later in life. Pretend play allows the mind to develop stronger cognitive flexibility, an important skill for academic success. It also increases a child’s creativity.
Extend their learning: To encourage pretend play, offer your child open-ended play props. These types of toys allow a child to think of never-ending make-believe scenarios. Loose-parts play is another great way to encourage pretend play. Here are some great toys that encourage pretend play:
- Dress-up clothes
- Wooden blocks
- Dolls (big and small)
- Toy animals
- Empty boxes
- Props such as pretend food, dishes, tools, or stuffed animals
How do you encourage pretend play experiences for your child?
A high-quality preschool program in Phoenix, Arizona
Valley Child Care and Learning Centers offer a high-quality preschool program for families in the Phoenix area. Families can trust that their children are getting the best education possible, with a research-based approach to curriculum. Teachers emphasize play-based learning, using developmentally appropriate practices to support children in their growth.