Benefits of Children Pretending

17 January 2024

We’ve all seen kids from infancy onward who love to play pretend.  As adults we can use that skill toward problem solving, enjoying a movie, or developing a new career or past time.  If you are around children, it is a good idea to encourage reasonable pretend play and here’s why.

First, it is just plain fun.

It will encourage a natural imagination that grows into creativity.  The thinking process will help with learning to form opinions and to express ideas to others as well as understand another point of view they may not have considered.

When done in a group, it allows expression of other ideas and sometimes new words or exposure to other languages.  Pretending can also deal with changes or handling a situation when it doesn’t go as planned.  Playing can help socializing especially for children who are home schooled or have few or no siblings.

It helps with memory and retention.

Emotionally, if they pretend to be someone else, it can help them understand how we are all similar but still different and all is good.  It helps develop a sense of self as well as to recognize others’ feelings or ideas and tolerance for another concept.  It can decrease anxiety by working through make believe scenarios to overcome some issue, like fear of the dark, etc.

Physically pretending can involve other objects, like a phone or a doll, or it can involve acting like someone else such as mixing food in a bowl, or even an animal.  This can help develop both gross and fine motor skills that are important in many aspects of our lives.

There are ways that adults can encourage pretend play.

  • Get down face to face with the child and allow him or her to copy your gestures and facial expressions.
  • Keep it simple and repeat a lot. For an adult, the repetition will become tiresome but for the kid it is part of their learning technique.
  • Start with something your child enjoys or their favorite toys. Work on sharing by trading the gestures.  Link things together by pointing to the school bus and then singing “The wheels on the bus…”

For the adult, there are also benefits you may not recognize.

  • This is a great bonding opportunity. Connecting on their level is important in ongoing relationships as they mature.
  • It allows you to see where their interest lie. If you continue the process into childhood, tweens, and teens, you can keep tabs on where they are headed since goals and interests change over time.
  • It can motivate you, as the adult, to try new things and be proactive.
  • It hones your own teaching skills, which can be important when homework comes along.
  • If the child does not want to participate, can alert parents and caregivers that there could be some emotional or developmental issues to explore.

For the child it

  • Helps with thinking in terms of symbols and pictures
  • Helps with critical thinking
  • Stimulates imagination

Props, also known as toys, can help but don’t think you need to spend a lot of money on big name and educational toys.  In fact, the fewer store-bought toys, the greater the imagination stimulation.  Vehicles can be boxes of various sizes.  Add some object like a Lego or block as the driver.  Dig out old hats, shoes, can become other objects with a little experimentation.  If there is a favorite doll, action figure, or stuffed animal, pretend feed or invite them to a tea party.  Never overlook the empty cardboard roll from paper towels or toilet paper.

As mentioned earlier, if your child is not copying simple actions, is having difficulty sharing or taking turns, having too many tantrums, or losing interest quickly, check with your family physician or pediatrician, day care workers, preschool teacher, or ask for an evaluation to eliminate any concerns.

In the long run, pretending should be fun for both the child and the adult.

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