Pretend Play is also known by terms such as imaginative play, creative play, make-belief play, fantasy play.
Pretend play is the stage of play engaged in by children who are capable of assigning action to symbolic objects. Young children learn by imagining and doing. Children will take on roles, assign meaning to objects, and transform their reality into a world of its own.
Children love being superheroes, playing 'mummies and daddies', playing shopping, dress-ups, playing flying to the moon, tea-parties, playing trucks in the sandpit and playing with dolls and teddies to name a few. Have you ever watched children pick up a stone and pretend it is a zooming car, or hop a Lego across the table as if it were a person or a bunny or when they pretend they're pirates or secret agents, it seems like they're playing simple games—literally engaging in child's play. But this pretend play is not as simple as it may seem. The process of pretending builds skills in many essential developmental areas.
Pretend play is a healthy part of every child's social, emotional, and cognitive development and should not be feared by parents or educators. 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 do children start to Pretend Play?
Children start to play pretend between 14 months and 18 months of age, and luckily they don't require much to get started.
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. This process helps your child to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help him learn to read.
It encourages creativity
The power of kids' imaginations is a wondrous thing to behold. All they need is some time, space, and your encouragement, and they can be anything and go anywhere, just by pretending. They make up stories and adventures and create whole worlds and dialogue and action sequences naturally, without even thinking about it—this is creativity in its purest form.
Pretend play lets kids reflect re-create social relationships through play.
Kids make sense of the world and mimic the social interactions they see around them through imaginative play. Kids will share with a teddy bear, give them a check-up, praise them for sharing, or make them some tea at a tea party. It's not only adorable, but it's a great way for kids to put into practice the interpersonal skills and dynamics they're learning.
It encourages cooperation and conflict resolution
If your child and their friend want to be the same princess when they play, they may decide to take turns. Or your child may learn to play a game their older brother wants to play in exchange for a promise that they'll play their game the next time.
How to Promote Pretend Play
When putting the suggestions below into practice, it can help to:
Let kids play alone and with friends or with you
When kids play alone, they can create their own games and let their imaginations lead them. They work on social and emotional skills while they use their imaginations. Both are important and valuable.
Let them lead
When you pretend-play with kids, try not to guide them. If they ask you for help or for ideas, you can suggest prompts.
Encourage them when they don't follow instructions and use toys in new and creative ways
Sure, it's fun to build the truck or building according to the instruction manual that comes with building sets. But it's great when kids decide to mix and match parts from different sets to create their own designs and scenarios, too. Let your child know you love their creations and ideas.