The first time I encountered my son role-playing, he was Buzz Lightyear. After a while, he became Ben 10. Recently, when people would ask him his name, he would say, “I am IronMan”.
My mommy friends’ young children live in their own fantasy world, too … most girls would have fun pretending to be “princesses” like Rapunzel or Ariel, while the boys would channel Spiderman or Batman. A daughter of one of my colleagues actually looks like Dora the Explorer with her cute “Dora-inspired” hairstyle.
One of the interesting stages in every child’s development is when they start to role-play or what we call, “pretend play”.
“Mommy, look, I am a princess.”
“When I grow up I want to be a doctor.”
“I want a phone just like the one daddy has!”
“I want to wear a cowboy hat… so I could be like Woody!”
“I want to fly like Superman.”
If these sound familiar to you, then your child is in a phase of building his world of make-believe – a world where they role-play and act out their favorite characters or dreams.
There are different kinds of pretend play:
1. Playing Dress Up.
Does your little one wear a princess’ crown or a Spiderman outfit? Or perhaps you have caught your child wearing your shoes or daddy’s tie. This is one way a child does role-playing, by imitating the appearance of a character or person they like.
2. Getting in Character.
There are times when your child would use an expression which he heard from his favorite movie or even from you. Sometimes he would act in a certain manner trying to be that famous character in Toy Story or from a Disney Princess movie. Or sometimes your child could try to imitate mom or dad or a teacher or a doctor. Acting out certain personalities and situations or recreating scenes are some ways for your child to play pretend.
3. Building a Whole New World.
Creating his own make-believe world such as his kingdom in your own backyard, transforming a box into his car is one way a child’s imagination comes to life.
4. Performing and Enjoying an Audience.
Your child may also engage in pretend play by joining school plays or even just singing and dancing during family gatherings. This is also one way for him to role-play by imagining talents and skills he hopes to be good at.
As parents, we may think little of it, but according to many child experts, role-playing or pretend play is not just senseless playing but is, in fact, essential to a child’s emotional, mental, intellectual, and even physical development. It is part of a child’s learning mechanism.