The Importance of Pretend Play in Child Development

What is Pretend Play?

Pretend play is an essential piece of a child’s development. Physical play, such as running, jumping, and using playground equipment, is crucial for many aspects of a toddler’s development.

Still, imagination has a unique role that contributes to every child’s overall personality and developmental characteristics.

Whether at home, in daycare, or in a classroom setting for young children, imagination stations are set up to encourage play and creativity.

The children who initiate or join pretend play will show advanced social and cognitive skills compared to children who do not engage in imaginative play.

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How do you start playing pretend?

Finding items and materials to use in pretend play does not require spending large amounts of money or having a spare room as a play area.

Backyards, parks, living rooms, and bedrooms will be sufficient when a make-believe world is created.

Common household objects are more than adequate since toddlers are familiar with an object’s purpose by observing how parents, siblings, and caregivers use different things when cooking, cleaning, shopping, driving, and working.

Children’s TV shows and movies also use commonly purchased items and somewhat familiar locations in their stories, giving a child’s imagination more reasons and ways to explore different pretend situations.

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imagination Play Household Items

There are play kits available for purchase if there are specific items that you do not have on hand already.

Measuring cups, cooking utensils, plastic mixing bowls, oversized coats, magnifying glasses, blankets for capes, aprons, chairs, and couch cushions for forts, hats, nonworking cell phones, plastic utensils and dishes, and retired costume jewelry can all be used for pretending.

Popular pretend play kits include firefighters’ attire, police costumes, princess dresses, vet or doctor coats with exam equipment, chefs, and shopkeepers.

We’ve mentioned that pretend play is important and briefly talked about what can be used as imagination tools and supplies, but now let’s dive into why imaginative play is essential to child development.

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Is Pretend Play Good for Toddlers?

When a toddler or young child is engaged in pretend play, they usually experiment with social and emotional settings they have seen or felt in real life.

When a toddler imagines they are a firefighter being called to help a cat stuck in a tree or put out a fire at the local post office, they are putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, and problem-solving how they think or feel is the best way to address the issue.

If events were successful and the cat and all the people at the post office were saved, toddlers would feel accomplished and celebrated.

However, if the post office building was destroyed, they may experience a moment of sadness until they figure out how they want to help rebuild a new post office for their pretend town.

Toddlers at Play

When more than one child engages in pretend play with each other, they are using cooperative play and bringing unique ideas to a group activity.

Communication and emotional recognition are necessary for children to work together and play their roles.

Social skills are not limited to talking; they include non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, empathy, negotiations, considering perspectives, listening, sharing, and taking turns.

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Imaginative Play Thinking Skills

Through creative ideas, toddlers learn to think for themselves. Training the brain to have cognitive flexibility allows children to understand the difference between reality and imagination while also providing the ability to be present in either world when appropriate.

Children and adults spending more time in their imagination than in the real world are often known as daydreamers, but this is an excellent skill.

To solve problems, imagining different scenarios and circumstances helps find solutions and potential causes.

Adults that pretend played as children have the skills necessary to get through most situations they encounter at work, school, home, or anywhere in between.

Toddlers and young children are doing the same through pretend play when trying to play house, serve their pretend community as a police officer, or have just become the new chef at a popular restaurant.

Pretend Play Language Skills

Toddlers who play in pretend worlds, especially with others, will want to talk, share their character’s story, and express how much fun they are having or not having.

Vocabulary will grow, sentences will begin, and self-confidence will increase the more engaged a child is.

During playtime, there is less anxiety around learning or using new words, so children feel more in control and willing to talk.

Do not be surprised to hear common phrases parents or siblings say. Children are always listening, even if we don’t think they are.

What are Benefits of imaginative play?

Whether working through fears of going to the doctor, pretending to shop for the upcoming holiday dinner, or taking care of all the animals at the zoo, pretend play is crucial for self-esteem, self-confidence, language, thinking, problem solving, independence, and creativity.

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