My youngest son is in a huge pretend play stage right now. It is adorable to watch him pretend to be a policeman, fireman, or one of his favorite Marvel characters. Wednesday was his birthday and he asked me for three gifts: shotgun, bow and arrow, and a Spider-man mask; all pretend play related. At the store, he opted for a Thor helmet to go with his new bow and has been running around pretending to be Thor ever since.
When my oldest bunch was younger I was less than encouraging with pretend play. I didn’t care for my eight year-old daughter playing “Birth” with her dolls and my oldest son handcuffing the teddy bear. It is almost laughable now, but I had no idea I was hindering their learning by hindering their play.
“Hindering their learning?”
Yes, you read that correctly. I was hindering their learning. Pretend play teaches children how the world works, how to respond, and how to better socialize and react to situations around them. Scholastic Parents suggests that pretend play is especially important in developing core skills in young children:
- Teaches Patience, how to take turns
- Problem solving
- Responsibilities (what they are, who has them)
- Morals and empathy
- Feelings and identification thereof
- Language Skills
Before you catch yourself demanding your child take off last year’s Halloween costume, remember that your child’s brain is developing with everything they do, and what they do matters! Encourage imaginative play by keeping the costumes out of storage, creating your own costumes to use, talking to your child about the day’s happenings, and reading stories that spark imagination.
One way to talk to your child about the world around them is to point out what others are doing while on walks and journeys. Examples:
“Do you see the mommy over there cuddling her baby? I wonder what the baby is thinking about while looking up at that BIG tree! What do you think the baby is thinking?”
“Oh wow! Look at the tools the policeman has on his belt! I wonder what they do. Do you know what they are for? Should we go and ask him to tell you?”