Nonna's Favorite Quotes:

Nonna's Favorite Quotes: "The best way to make children good is to make them happy." — Oscar Wilde, author and poet

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Power of Pretend

Have you ever watched your child pretend? My grandchildren do it all the time. They pretend to be their preschool teacher or swim school instructor, or characters from their favorite book or children's television show. They can take any ordinary object and turn it into a car or a phone or an animal. It's amazing.

As a parent it is important to provide a pre-school child with many stimulating experiences. Read to them, talk to them, take them to new places and see new things. Then that child will take these experiences and turn them into imaginative play. This enables them to effectively make sense of their world. Young children learn by using their imagination.  Studies have proven that preschool children who spend more time in pretend play are more advanced in general intellectual development and have the ability to concentrate for longer peiods of time.

There's a great deal of difference between how we learn as adults and how young children learn. Children pretend in order to comprehend the world around them.

The process of pretend play builds necessary skills in important developmental areas. The following was taken from a piece written for Scholastic.com called "The Importance of Pretend Play."

  • Social and Emotional Skills
    When your child engages in pretend (or dramatic) play, he is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, he learns how to take turns, share responsibility, and creatively problem-solve. When your child pretends to be different characters, he has the experience of "walking in someone else's shoes," which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. It is normal for young children to see the world from their own egocentric point of view, but through maturation and cooperative play, your child will begin to understand the feelings of others. Your child also builds self-esteem when he discovers he can be anything just by pretending!
  • Language Skills
    Have you ever listened in as your child engages in imaginary play with his toys or friends? You will probably hear some words and phrases you never thought he knew! In fact, we often hear our own words reflected in the play of children. Kids can do a perfect imitation of mom, dad, and the teacher! Pretend play helps your child understand the power of language. In addition, by pretend playing with others, he learns that words give him the means to reenact a story or organize play. This process helps your child to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help him learn to read.
  • Thinking Skills
    Pretend play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve. Whether it's two children wanting to play the same role or searching for the just right material to make a roof for the playhouse, your child calls upon important cognitive thinking skills that he will use in every aspect of his life, now and forever.

    Scholastic.com
So what can you do to encourage pretend play at your house? It's very simple. Start by providing ordinary objects that will trigger your child's imagination and then give them room to play.

Here are some ideas of what to provide: 
  • Boxes and blocks are always a good idea. (I've always said I could have saved a lot of money by giving my kids the boxes instead of the toys.)
  • Unbreakable dishes, bowls, pots, utensils, etc.
  • Lots of stuffed animals.
  • Old clothes and hats for dress up.
  • A card table with a blanket or sheet over it makes a great cave or playhouse.
  • Dolls or action figures
  • Some type of "house". This can be any kind of doll house, or Sesame Street Neighborhood, or car garage, etc. Children can play for hours making up scenarios.
Now sit back and watch your children as they play. You'll be amazed at the storylines and the vocabulary that they use. A word of warning... be prepared to see yourself in what they will say and do! Sometimes they will open your eyes to some behaviors and words that you might want to change or omit in the future.  

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