So what is pretend play?

Or Role-Play, Imaginative Play, Small World Play, Make-Believe Play, Fantasy Play or Adventure Play --- whatever you call it, it's still a crucial and fun part of child development.

When a child is sat in front of a screen whether it is the TV, DVD or  computer, they are engaging in passive play or learning. Although this is not a bad way to learn children become just passive recipients. This does not engage a child in a kinesthetic way where they need to use all of their senses. Pretend, or imaginative play is a more natural way for  children to learn about the world. They can express themselves both verbally and non-verbally and they can use all their muscles and senses to move around and act out.

Pretend play is leaning through play

It allows children to get into character and act out a role or real life context. It is a healthy part of a child's development,

Examples of pretend play are -

  • playing mummies and daddies

  • shopping

  • flying to the moon

  • pirate adventure

  • playing with dollies and teddies

  • being doctors or vets

  • dressing up

to name just a few.

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Pretend play is a thinking skill. To be able to engage in this type of play children have to -

  • use objects and pretend the object is something else (i.e. a box becomes a bed or a ship or somewhere to put treasure

  • imagine and refer to invisible objects i.e. the shark is in the water, look there is the magic door

  • attribute properties to objects i.e. the tedy is hungry, the car is going fast, the dinner is too hot

  • playing in character like being a mummy, a policeman, a vet

  • sequencing ideas

Why is it important?

  • It provides a child with links to the adult world - Through role play they are more able to understand the complex relationships between people

  • Social skills can be developed. Taking turns and playing with others.

  • Emotional development. Gaining understanding and being able to express their feelings. Taking on different roles encourages empathy.

  • Imagination is the key to all learning and your child is able to be anyone or be anywhere they want to be when they are in their own pretend world.

  • Language skills are developed as well as listening skills.

Pretend or imaginative play is a crucial part of a child's development. Children can develop many skills including fine and gross motor skills, hand-eye coordination, logical thinking and development of their imaginations.​

How do you encourage it?

Provide props and toys. This does not mean you have to go out and buy lots of new stuff. the most simple of items fro around the home will be just perfect. Take a trip down to your local pound shop - look for things like plastic whisk, cups, bowls etc.

Make silver coins with the help of your child by cutting out small circles from cereal boxes and let your child wrap the circles in silver foil.

Plastic baskets, plastic flowers, old telephones, note books, old keys and the list goes on.

Reading or telling stories will help your child begin their own adventure story. Talk to them about what's happening if their using the cushions as stepping stones across the living room. Ask them what's in the water as they cross on the cushions. Are there crocodiles? Do we have to be careful not to fall in?

If their talking on their pretend phone, ask them if they want you to write down a message. Would they like a note-pad so that they can write down the message?

If their pretending to do cooking, ask what they are making. Do they need to get some more ingredients from the shops?

All you need to do is encourage the game. Give them some ideas and then leave them to develop their own.

Junk or Treasure?

What is so great about a cardboard box, an old tea towel, a set of keys, an old handbag, teddies and dollies or small farm animals?

They are all magical items in the eyes of a child.....

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Bath Time Fun

Make bath time an enjoyable part of your child's routine. It can be a very special time shared with you and your toddler. Talk and laugh with your child as you bathe them.

It can also be a very good way of getting them ready to go to bed. If they know they are going to have a chance to have one more play with an adult before sleep time it will reinforce that they are loved and cared for.

When your baby is old enough to sit up, give them a little sponge, a bath toy, or plastic cups. For instance, you might count out loud to see how many little cups of water go into a bigger cup.

Sometimes though, they're are having so much fun they might not want to get out. Then you might have to invent a funny checklist like: Have you washed your belly? Have you washed your toes? Have you washed your...? You can use the same checklist each time. They will love the repetition.

Of course, never leave your child unattended in the bath.

Some Ideas for Bath-Time Fun

  • Coloured Ice cubes - Make up some ice cubes in ice cubes trays using a little food colouring. Add the ice-cubes to the bath and watch as they chase them around before they melt.

  • Glowing Bath - You will need to buy some glow sticks for this one next time you see them being sold in the pound shop. Crack the glow sticks and put them in the bath. Turn the light out and watch as your child plays. I have heard that you can put the glow stick in the freezer to prolong their life so that you can use them again next bath-time.

  • Wind-Up toy races - Wind up their bath toys and talk to them about what one is going to win the race.

  • A puppet show for bath-time - You can buy bath puppets or if you are any good with a sewing machine you can make your own.

  • Water Balloon Bath - Fill up some water balloons with water and some with just air. Put them in the bath and watch the fun.

  • Craft Foam Art - Craft foam can be bought from the craft shop. Cut it into shapes and give it to your child to create some art.  It floats, when it gets wet and it sticks to the tiles, and it can be easily cut into an infinite variety of shapes. They can put the shapes together to make some fantastic pictures.

  • Bath Time Math - Put some different size plastic containers in the bath. Use words like full, empty, more than, less than, etc as they pour the water from one container to another.

  • Pool Noodle Fun - If you have a pool noodle that is getting a little worse for wear then you can cut it into one-inch pieces (Use a bread knife for this and it is easier than using scissors). If you're going to buy one then get the thinner ones which are usually cheaper and you can sometimes get them from the pound shop. Try to get at least two different colours. Fill the bath with them and let your child explore.

  • Boats in the Bath - You don't need to have boats for this one. Some plastic bowls will do nicely. Your little one can put small world figures in the bowls and float them along. How many figures can they get in the 'boats' before the tip over?

  • Bubble Science - Collect some yogurt pots and put small holes in the bottom. Hold the pots upside down in the bath and watch as the air escapes to the surface.

And of course, you can always buy bath paint ... that's good fun too. Or make your own.

Well, there are just a few ideas - I'm sure you can think of lots more.

Remember Have Fun

Raindrop Fun

What are the benefits of children playing in the rain?

Believe it or not, there are many benefits of letting our children play outside on wet days. I wouldn't recommend them going out in gale force winds, or when there is thunder and lightening - much better on those days to watch the weather from inside the house. But when it's raining - well that's just so much fun as well as being good for them.

Here are a list of reasons why playing in the rain is great for our children's health and well-being.

  1. Playing outside means your child is more physically active. This helps prevent obesity,diabetes, heart disease and lots of other health issues. If we just waited for those nice dry sunny days, just think of how much physical exercise we are missing out on.

  2. Children who play outside have higher levels of vitamin D, Vitamin D helps to make our bones stronger and as our children grow they need to develop good strong bones,. It also helps to strengthen the immune system.

  3. Children with ADHD experience significantly fewer symptoms after spending time in nature.

  4. Children who play regularly in natural environments have more advanced motor skills, such as agility, balance and coordination, and are sick less often

  5. Children who play outside engage in more imaginative games, interact more and get along better with others.

  6. Children who grow up having regular contact with the natural world are more likely to develop a lifelong love for nature and care to preserve it

  7. Children who are exposed to the natural world develop stronger awareness, reasoning and observation skills

  8. Experiencing the joy of nature in a different way and uses their senses to feel the sensation of rain falling on their faces

  9. Developing motor skills in children, including balance. Playing in the rain helps children learn to test slippery paths and keep their balance.

  10. Learn about rain through first-hand experience. Where does water come from?  How does the wind effect the rain falling? Are some raindrops bigger than others? Are there different kinds of clouds? Why do we get puddles? so many science questions that can be answered by having fun in the rain

Using Puppets

A puppet can be useful to hold the attention of a child. It can become a little friend to share moments of joy or sadness with, or have a laugh with.  It can help your child to communicate. When a child is spell-bound by a puppet they can learn without even realising.

Sock Puppets.

We all have those odd socks in the house. In most homes, No matter how careful you are, the washing machine or the dryer will eat one of your socks. Don't throw them out - Use them to create sock puppets.  When you put the puppet on your hand and add the voice and the movements it will turn into a character of your choice.  Make sure your sock puppet turns into a friendly rather than a frightening character.  You could make a really simple puppet by just putting a sock on your hand and use a felt tip to draw on some eyes or you could make a more elaborate sock puppet. As your children get older they can make their own sock puppets.

Making a simple sock puppet with your child

What you will need

A sock

Cotton wool or googly eyes

Wool for hair

Felt tip


What to do

  1. Put the sock on your hand, and make a mouth by tucking a bit between your palm and fingers.

  2. Then ask your child where its eyes should be, and stick the cotton wool balls on the sock with glue (or the googly eyes if you have them).

  3. Use a felt tip to draw on a nose.

  4. Cut some wool strands and glue them in place.

  5. Give it a funny name and a silly voice and make your child giggle!