Kids love to engage in imaginative or pretend play. It's not uncommon to catch a child engrossed in his own little world where he's flying an airplane, manning his own sari-sari store or contentedly serving make-believe food to his stuffed toys.
It’s definitely adorable, but parents should know that play is more than “just fun” to kids. Play is crucial to a child’s development, according to renowned developmental child psychologist Penelope Leach. Imaginative or pretend play in particular plays a vital role in many areas of growth including cognitive, social and emotional, language and communication, problem-solving and creativity, said Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist specializing in development, in an article for Psychology Today.
Can’t quite picture how? Imagine your child pretending to be the mom to her favorite doll. She finds ways to build a bed for her doll by using a book and a lampin as a blanket. She talks to her doll like how she thinks a mom would, even copying your words at times. She rocks the doll in her arms when it “cries”. All this stimulates your child’s brain and boosts her development. And you can help it along too. Here are ideas for more pretend play fun: 1. Provide lots of props for role play. “One of the most important kinds of imaginative play is pretending to be somebody else: role-play,” said Leach in an article for BabyCentre. And role playing for kids isn’t about ready-made costumes from head to toe, but props that can signify the character they’re role playing.
Work tools like a hammer and tape measure are needed to role play a handyman, for example. Bandaids and a stethoscope are for a doctor. And you don't have to buy these too -- your tot will be able to pretend play even with DIY props. You can make an astronaut's helmet by cutting out a circle on one side of a cardboard box. Gluing two empty toilet rolls together makes binoculars for an explorer, and one of your old nightdresses can be a shiny dress for a princess.
2. Have stuffed animals and dolls. Your child’s lovey does more than soothe her at bedtime. Stuffed toys and dolls sit in as other people during a child’s pretend play, according to Leach. This provides the opportunity for your little one to try out what she’s learned from real people interactions -- both good and bad, like being nurturing and kind or hurtful by pinching or fighting with the toys.
Stuffed toys also make great listeners to a toddler’s babblings, helping his communication skills along. “The talk that kids engage in during make-believe is directly correlated with how much language kids have a few years later,” said Roberta Golinkoff, Ph.D., author of A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool: Presenting the Evidence, told Parents. 3. “Assign” your toddler household chores. “The ‘home corner’ is usually the most popular facility in any playgroup or childcare centre,” said Leach. At home, let your little one “help” with the chores. You’ll find that she’ll gladly do so and with gusto too.
Participating in the cleaning and fixing lets your child pretend to be an adult just like mom and dad. Try wiping down tables and furniture with your child and make sure she has her own mini basahan. Soon you’ll find that she will want to try cooking or child rearing too. If you find that your child enjoys playing house, keep an eye out for toy versions of domestic tools like brooms, mops and even gardening supplies. The closer it looks to yours, the better.