Child psychologist Jean Piaget once said, “Play is the work of children.” And how true that is. So much is learned at playtime and is an important part of what it means to be a child. Imaginative play in particular is a favorite pastime and one worth fostering. Here are just a few of the many benefits of pretend play.
Pretend Practice, Real Success
For little kids, the wide world is an overwhelming place, with rules, codes of conduct, and socialization. Pretend play gives kids an opportunity to practice real-life skills and circumstances in a safe environment.
For example, with a play kitchen, children can simulate cooking, hosting a friend for tea, or practicing the waiter/patron relationship in a make-believe café. When children are able to mimic these real-world circumstances and interactions, they gain confidence to repeat it outside the walls of their playroom. It’s a fun, safe way for them to practice, setting them up well for future success.
Even when a world is made up, as in pretend play, children still tend to establish rules to create their imaginary world. When children run into an obstacle in pretend-play, like for example, when playing “school,” the kid who is meant to be a student decides that they want to be a fairy visiting the classroom instead, the kids will need to think creatively about how to incorporate this new fact into their story. Much like improv, pretend play encourages children to use their imagination to find creative solutions to new circumstances. A skill that will no doubt serve kids well in life!
The Art of Negotiation
When pretend play involves friends, the interactions can get more interesting. Friends might have different opinions about what role they’re playing, what their character is doing, or what is happening in the make-believe world. This is really where your little one can learn to negotiate with a give and take, to make the make-believe magic happen.
Children don’t typically need a whole lot of prompting to start exploring the world of pretend play, but it doesn’t hurt to fill your playroom with prompts that encourage and expand make-believe play. A play kitchen set, dress-up, and even a table and chair set can all help your child exercise that important skill of imaginative play.