Did you know that pretend play is about more than just having fun?? Here is why you really should let
their imaginations soar!
Young children learn by imagining and doing. Whether they are zooming a stone across the ground like a car or casting fairy spells with twigs, the process of pretending isn’t purely for FUN…it also aids their development in a variety of ways.
Everything from learning to take turns on the slide and swings to sharing the responsibility of sailing their pirate ship improves children’s social and emotional skills. Each character they pretend to be allows them to experience ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’ and in turn teaches them about empathy. Self-esteem and self-awareness are also promoted as children discover that they can be just about anything by pretending!
It is normal for young children to behave selfishly at times…however, by engaging in regular pretend play they have the opportunity to learn responsibility, collaboration and valuable co-operation skills. Imaginative play allows children to express their positive and negative feelings in a safe environment. These experiences in turn teach children how to process, manage and control their emotions, feelings and behaviour. It really is a win-win!
Tuning into their games can be such an eye opener! It is likely that you will hear them saying things that you didn’t know they knew! They can impersonate you, their teachers and their friends perfectly! Pretend play helps children to make a connection between spoken and written language – something that later helps them learn to read. Imaginative play offers the perfect opportunity to expose children to new vocabulary – and the more the better! Spending the afternoon in the ‘airport’ or on a ‘ship’ gives children experience of words associated with these places. Not only does pretend play broaden their horizons in this way, it also helps to reduce anxiety as language and situations become more familiar. Their vocabulary thrives as they begin to use words appropriately and in context. And the icing on the cake? Children’s listening skills are also improved through imaginative play!
Pretend play presents children with a variety of different problems to solve and scenarios to consider. Will the climbing frame be a spaceship or a castle this time, who will be the leader, what materials are needed to protect them from monsters, what are the rules, who will go first steering the ship and how will they deal with something going wrong etc. The cognitive skills children use to deal with these ‘problems’ stay with them for life. As adults we have to problem solve on a daily basis therefore it is SO important that children are given the opportunity to cultivate these skills from a young age.
Learning through play is now widely recognised as an essential form of learning and development in young children. Access to outdoor play and climbing frames gives children endless opportunities to use objects to represent something else, or assign themselves and others a role to act out. A ships wheel can steer a ship, a plane, a car or even a spaceship…A telescope can help keep a lookout for invaders, or monsters…or even parents coming to announce bed time!
As simple as it sounds, by pushing back the barriers of reality our little ones are learning so many crucial life skills. Pretend and imaginative play encourages children to become creative, see things through different perspectives and use different emotions – all of which plays a big part in their social and cognitive development.
And last but by no means least is the benefit that all this play has on a child’s physical health. Outdoor play, whether it be climbing a rockwall-mountain, walking the plank, swinging through the jungle, escaping monsters or defending their kingdom all does our little ones the world of good. Skills are developed, they are getting exercise and most importantly LOTS OF FUN IS HAD!