Watching pretend play begin to develop can be so much fun! Typically, when a child first begins to pretend it is by watching a parent or another child, and then imitating what they have done. This may be something as simple as taking a block and scooting it across the floor while making “vroom” sounds. There is something magical about pretend play and it offers great insight into a child’s awareness is of his/her surroundings.
Over the last few months, I have been watching a few of our clients and my daughter begin pretending. Each of them has started out with imitation of something that an adult is doing, and has progressed to more spontaneous pretending within a familiar context. One of my clients started out by just imitating the sounds I made for the animals in the barn, and has now progressed to the point where he takes the animals and moves them around the barn and makes the noises without my model. Another child has started to pretend using puppets and will act out elaborate stories based on actual shared experiences with his mom. This is a favorite activity for him and his mom. My own daughter will often pretend that she is going to the store, pushing her shopping cart to the kitchen and putting food in her cart.
As pretend play expands the schemes become more elaborate and can extend over several days or weeks. Children engage in pretend play alone and with other children, intertwining ideas and changing the play as it evolves. Kids utilize real life experiences as a basis for their pretend play. There are times when I watch children playing and can’t make heads or tails out of what is going on, but it is obvious that they have a plan they are following.
So what are some ways that you can help develop the ability to pretend?
- Play with your child – don’t be afraid to be silly and act like a kid. Your child learns by watching you, so model pretend play.
- Provide your child with “props.” Items such as paper towel tubes, tissue boxes, empty cracker boxes, old clothes/shoes, shopping bags, etc make great props for pretend play.
- Provide your child with a variety of experiences such as going to the library, grocery store, park, museum, vacation, etc. Every experience your child has is a potential jumping off point for pretend play.
- Read with your child. Reading is a great way to expose your child to a variety of people, places, and activities. Stories in books can spark your child’s imagination and provide a great starting place for pretend play.
Pretend play is the starting point for developing creativity and problem solving. Providing your child with rich life experiences, and modeling pretend play is the best way to begin. Pretending is fun; you might even re-discover your creative side in the midst of pretending with your child.