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.
What is it?
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
flying to the moon
playing with dollies and teddies
being doctors or vets
to name just a few.
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
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.
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.....
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.