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Monday, March 14, 2016

Pretend Play—Why is it Important? by Trisha Roberts

Do you remember clomping around in your mother's shoes?  Taking your Dad's briefcase, putting on his hat and going 'off to work'? There is a universal fascination with dressing up.
Child dressed in mother's shoes
Pretend Play Lets Children Role Play

One of the main appeals of Halloween, besides the free candy, is the opportunity to dress in a costume and pretend to be your favorite character. Most Day Cares have a Costume Closet where children can use clothing, props, and tools to re-make themselves into doctors, astronauts, veterinarians, cowboys or Hawaiian Hula Dancers.  Pretend play is an important way children imitate others and try on new roles, but it is more than that. Through Dramatic Play children learn many skills; let's discuss a few.
Boy pretending to be a pilot
Kids Learn Creativity and Improvisation

  • Children learn to cooperate and solve problems when they take on new roles.  They have to coordinate and plan, improving social skills with others in order to turn the living room into a Zoo for their friends to visit. They learn creativity and improvisation as they turn the underside of a table into a cage for the lion.
  • Children settle conflicts and confusing situations they have encountered in their lifetime experiences. They experiment with how to handle arguments and disagreements, loss of a loved one, separation from a parent. Children have a chance to ask questions, postulate answers, and draw conclusions in a safe environment and without judgement.  They learn to examine and sort their emotions and reactions, leading to good emotional health.
  • When children “go shopping” or open a restaurant and cash out a customer they are applying their math and organizational skills.  When they gallop, hop, or crawl they improve their coordination and strength.
  • Pretend Play improves language development and vocabulary skills as well as good interpersonal communication.  Children learn to organize and manage tasks, give instructions, follow directions, develop leadership skills and learn to be a good follower
Dress up Hats
Pretend Play Develops Skills on Many Levels

Kitchen Helper Dramatic Play
Pretend Play--Role Play

So if Dramatic Play is so important, how can we foster imaginary fun?
  • ·        Keep a tub or box filled with odd pieces of clothing and props: a scarf, a stethoscope, a feather boa, a police badge, a variety of hats, a plastic hammer, a rolling pin, fake dollars and coins. 
  • ·        Purchase a variety of puppets and buy or make a small theater.  Encourage your children to put on regular performances for the rest of the family.
  • ·        Read stories and then have the kids act out the story in their own words.  Add a new twist to the story, for example, what if Goldilocks negotiated the rental of a room at the Three Bears’ Home?
  • ·        Play the “What if” game.  What if a Martian landed in our back yard? What if Grandma lived next door?  What if we only went to school 3 days a week?

    Most importantly, make sure that your children have time for unstructured play that doesn’t involve a “screen”. Let them explore a universe of possibilities!

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