I am always excited to see kids playing make-believe. It means they are growing and can now recognise other people’s needs, beyond theirs.
Pretend play starts around 18 months. At the early stages, your baby will pretend with common things- like cooking or breastfeeding or even talking on the telephone. At age 2, imaginative play shows signs of symbolic thinking. This means an object is used to represent something else. For example, a remote control can be used as a mobile phone. At age 3, the pretend play advances and now, the object used in the play no longer needs to be similar to what it is pretending to be, the child’s imagination bridges the gap.
Why pretend play is important
1. Language Skills Development
During pretend play, a child is forced to dig into his memory to remember words he has heard in the past. Don’t be surprised if you hear words you never knew your baby knows during pretend play with toys or his friends. In fact, be prepared to hear your own words. Kids imitate during pretend play and this helps your child practice and develop language skills.
2.Social and Emotional Skills
Social and emotional skills are very important skills to existence and during pretend play, kids tap into their social and emotional skills as they adopt new roles and imitate others. They learn sharing, giving, taking responsibility, take turns and creative problem solving. Pretend play makes a child “live someone’s reality’ which helps him develop empathy. It will help them understand how other people feel and the consequences certain actions cause.
3. Thinking Skills
Cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever will be developed during pretend play. It can also help your child learn the self-regulation skills needed to know how, when and what the appropriate play is per time.
How to encourage pretend play.
Create a creative corner or room filled with items that encourage pretend play. Also you can consider creating a prop box or corner filled with objects to spark your preschooler’s fantasy world. You might include:
- Large plastic crates, cardboard blocks, or a large, empty box for creating a “home”
- Old clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats
- Old telephones, phone books, magazines
- Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic food containers, table napkins, silk flowers
- Stuffed animals and dolls of all sizes
- Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets for making costumes or a fort
- Theme-appropriate materials such as postcards, used plane tickets, foreign coins, and photos for a pretend vacation trip
- Writing materials for taking phone messages, leaving notes, and making shopping lists
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