A young child’s imagination can turn the most simple object into something new and exciting. An ordinary stone can easily become a racing car or a super jet, and a large cardboard box is all that is needed for a trip to the moon. Pretend play makes up a large portion of childhood playtime word family. Encourage your child to play make-believe because this type of creative play builds skills in several essential areas of development. Through dramatic play and pretend, young children take the new ideas and concepts they are learning and practice using them in real-life situations. Preschoolers and early elementary children will often play house to work out difficult situations they may experience, like fears at night or trips to the doctor.
A child who has just learned some interesting facts about dinosaurs may use blocks and toy dinosaurs to recreate the world the dinosaurs lived in. Toys like miniature household appliances made of wood or wooden dollhouses with miniature furnishing invite children to explore various roles and develop their social and emotional skills. Empathy begins to emerge as children pretend to be someone else and deal with life in their shoes. Through cooperative dramatic play, children learn to take turns and share as they learn important problem solving skills. Group play also helps children to solve problems as a team.
Cooperative pretend play gives children experience at working together with others to reach a goal and helps leadership skills emerge as well. By testing out new scenarios, children boost their self-esteem and become more self-confident. Pretend play also helps young children to begin to distinguish the difference in fantasy and reality. Toys like wooden doll furniture help children to develop language skills. Preschoolers learn to create their own stories during play and soon realize the connection between written and spoken words, a basic pre-reading skill. Vocabulary will begin to expand as children learn uses of new words and are introduced to words specific to their interests.
You can help your child gain a number of pre-reading and pre-writing skills by providing her with plenty of books, as well as crayons and paper, in addition to a variety of wooden toys that encourage imaginative play. With a wooden shopping cart and cash register, children can write their own grocery list while a friend is building her math skills. Pretend play also develops thinking skills.
Children will use important cognitive skills, as well as logic, to decide who plays what role or how to construct a pretend fort. Self-control and appropriate behavior can also be learned during cooperative pretend play. Advanced abstract thinking skills will begin to form as children learn to use one object to represent something else, like using a block to represent food. Objects that can be used to represent the ordinary things your child encounters each day are the best toys to encourage pretend play.