Why children love to pretend
Updated: Apr 9
STORY ONE: Jasmine and Amy are sitting on the floor playing together. Amy suggests that Jasmine lay down and “go to sleep” because it is bedtime. She gets up and chooses a blanket out of the many found inside a box and uses it to cover her friend Jasmine, who follows along and lays down. Amy then goes to the pretend kitchen and starts “cooking” pizza.
STORY TWO: Ray and Sue are on the floor building a town with blocks. The short blocks are the school, the post office, and the grocery. The tall blocks are the apartments and office buildings. Ray was pushing little wooden cars and Jack pushed a fire truck and making siren noises. “Get out of the way, the trucks are coming!”
STORY THREE: Sonya and Ivan have the doctors kit out and Sonya has a “cut” while Ivan puts a band-aid on it. Then she gets the “stethoscope” and “listens” to Ivan’s heart. Ivan asks, “Am I ok now?. Sonya nods yes. “Yes, your heart sounds good.”
LEARNING THROUGH PLAY
Imaginary play is a natural and powerful tool that allows children to develop their social-emotional and cognitive skills.
When taking on different roles it improves children’s social-emotional competence.
Children take on different points of view while using their imagination in role play.
This allows them to practice their understanding of the emotional experience of different personas.
Express different emotions
Regulate their own emotions.
Consider others feelings
this requires empathy and cooperation.
Playing pretend allows children to develop their language and communication skills
this promotes conversational skills and allows children to copy and practice words that they hear others use.
HOW DO CHILDREN PRETEND PLAY?
By “recreating” the physical world with their toys.
By role-playing as a “mom”, a “dad” or a “doctor”.
By acting out scenes they’ve seen: someone cooking, cars driving on the street, going to the doctor for a checkup.
WHAT ARE THEY LEARNING?
When taking on different roles they learn to negotiate with each other and mutually agree on these roles and the rules of the game
They learn to socialize and cooperate with their friends or siblings.
Imagining different scenarios and taking on different roles improves children’s social-emotional competence. This allows them to practice their understanding of the emotional experience of different people in their lives.
They learn how to express different emotions and how to regulate their own emotions. An example scenario such as pretending a friend is hurt, allows the child to practice how one expresses their feelings in such a dramatic situation and what their response would be to such a dilemma; this requires empathy and cooperation.
They develop their language and communication skills
Participating in the imagined game requires children to listen and respond to each other, which promotes conversational skills and allows children to copy and practice words that they hear each other use, thus expanding their vocabulary.
In order to play pretend children must use their cognitive skills, which furthers their development.
While pretending to be at the doctor, Tomaso is remembering what the doctor did and what it felt like.
THINGS YOU CAN DO:
Here's a couple of ways you can encourage Imaginative play in your everyday life! Go to the park or on playdates; although it is quite possible for children to use their imagination while playing alone, playing with friends allows them to learn from each other in ways that they can’t on their own.
Play pretend with them in their “kitchen”. It teaches them that they can tell their own stories and images instead of being passively entertained by TVs and tablets.
Follow their lead in play, allowing them to make up their own rules and engage in the activities that they choose to. This is empowering for them.
Provide them with tools, such as clothes for dress up or a cardboard box you can both paint and decorate.