What can children learn through pretend play?
In a busy world with what seems to be tireless amounts of chores, it is easy to fall into a cycle of giving your child the same toys to play with each day, using the TV as a baby sitter or saying “maybe next time”, “hold on, I just need to finish this first” each time your child comes running to you with underwear on their head exclaiming that they are Captain Underpants requesting that you come play with them. As parents it is important for us to acknowledge that for a child “Play” is not just leisure but is how they learn.
Of course there are many forms of play and endless ways to engage in play with your child. Dramatic or Pretend Play is just one way that children benefit from immensely that will also give you a chance to positively enhance their learning experiences, their self-esteem but most importantly it can strengthen your relationship with them.
Here are some of the benefits derived from Dramatic / Pretend Play
- Pretending: Just the act of pretending is a learning curve for a child. It grants them with an outlet to role play what they have seen in their world. This helps them learn about how the world works and practice how adults interact.
- Social Play: Pretend play encourages negotiation, cooperation, and role playing different situations. Pretend story lines and characters, turn taking, sharing are all great skills to learn.
- Social interaction: Not only does it help with social skills but it encourages a child to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and be empathetic and considerate of others. This gives them a chance to practice behaviour, manners and language that is needed when they interact in real world situations, as well as what behaviour is acceptable in public.
- Language development: Dramatic Pretend play encourages expressive language that would not otherwise be used by the child. Often through pretend play withdrawn children can first start to express themselves by acting a certain role. Further, this gives the parent an opportunity to extend on language skills by paraphrasing what the child has said using more descriptive language and exchanging conversations using expressive language examples.
- Imagination: Pretend Dramatic Play is a great for showing how imaginative children are. Imagination is an important building block for learning. It is not only important in childhood, imagination is crucial for life. Just imagine a world without it, we would not have scientists making new discoveries, artists making new artworks, Santa traditions, award winning stories like Avatar and we would not be able to cognitively process these possibilities or examples.
- Self-esteem: By giving your child complete control in their pretend world and accepting them as a silly character like Captain Underpants you are enhancing their self-esteem. While they use their own initiative to develop story lines, their creative imagination to expand stories and their own personality to choose a character they enjoy, you are enhancing their self-esteem by allowing them complete power in the world & enjoying it with them.
Try to provide some Dramatic Props
Tea sets, cooking utensils, outdoor mud station, play kitchen, plastic food, a cash register, empty food containers, doll houses, telephone, masks, dress up costumes, pretend money, wallets & bags, a pretend shop stand (a car sale, a flower stand, fresh fruit), play tools, toy doctor kit, bandages, toy animals, kids tool bench & building toys.
By accepting your child in their make believe world you give them complete control not only over the game, but over the ‘world’ for that short time, this enhances their self-esteem and gives you a chance to engage in their interests and their blooming personality, share in their enjoyments and it strengthens their trust in you and the world around them.
So next time a screaming Captain underpants runs past you, grab a towel and throw it on as a Super hero cape & go rescue Big Ted from the malicious tornado that’s about to hit your house.