On any given day, you’ll see Little T running around in a gown or a ballet outfit. Sometimes, she has on her head a white rag that her brother Little Sir holds gingerly after her. Depending on her mood, she is a princess, a ballerina, a bride, a cook, a singer, a guitarist.
Two-year-old Little Sir, on the other hand, is up-to-speed with his sister’s make-believe world, and can easily slip into the role of a prince, a danseur (who does a mean arabesque!), a groom, a restaurant customer, audience, and a singer singing “Goodnight Gorilla.” He’s now also beginning to create his own stories. He drives around holding a round plastic plate, vacuums the floor with a roll of plastic wrapper, or holds up a mango to his face and says it’s his nebulizer!
The Beauty of Pretend Play
I believe in the power of pretend play to build language, social-emotional, and problem-solving skills, among others.
When my children are “playing restaurant,” they use language appropriate for the setting: here’s your order ma’am, enjoy your spinach salad, here’s your change, or in Little Sir’s case, glug, glug, glug, glug! More!
Playing pretend also allows them to be in other people’s shoes. One of their favorite games these days is “Mama, Mama” wherein Little T is the mama and Little Sir is the baby. The baby would call out Mama! Mama! and the little mama would come running to lift the baby up. I love seeing our interactions reflected in their play!
Oftentimes, I hear my daughter wondering about how she will make something, like a camping set-up, a snowy day, or a basket of berries. She’ll then rattle off her ideas, the product of her thinking, and run off to do it. Problem solved!
I’ve set out to encourage imagination in my children right from the start. Starting with just a costume box, we now have a closet dedicated to clothes and accessories that they use for pretend.
When it comes to toys, I don’t buy a lot – I think! When I do go shopping, I naturally gravitate towards pretend toys that that can be played with in a number of ways and that will be used by my children for a long time. These are usually classic, wooden toys that even I love playing with!
A staple now in our playroom is our pretend kitchen with a stove and a sink, wooden dishes, and a wooden tea set. My children can play for hours with these toys and my little boy can be found in the playroom by himself, washing dishes or cooking up something on his own.
I love how my two little one get deep into their pretend world. With very limited screen-time, they are able to focus on what they are supposed to be doing at this stage in their lives – play, play, and play!
How do you encourage pretend play in your home?