Facilitating Pretend Play at Home

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Kids form relationships when they say “Let’s pretend” and offer another child a role in the narrative (Lindsey & Colwell, 2013). Pretend play is also known by some other names like, fantasy play, imaginative play and make-believe play. 

Some important characteristics of pretend play are:

  • children consider inanimate objects to be lively like them (doll, teddy bear)
  • Pretends to be a character they play in the different role play settings (teacher, or mother/father)
  • Builds up a story line based on their personal experiences. (teacher conversing with mother on child’s performance)
  • Children selects equipment or toys and consider it to be something else (a plastic block becomes a brick)
  • Children often refer to objects that are not visible. (that door bell will ring after 5 minutes)

Children who engage in more sociodramatic play express more positive emotion like engagement, thoughtfulness, understanding), less negative emotion like selfishness, need for attentionanger.  (Lindsey & Colwell 2013)

Pretend play is one of the healthiest ways to help young children master social skills. When young children pretend play, they master some of the following social skills:

It has been often seen that Indian parents and grandparents devalue the practice of play. When we see our young children engaged in role play, we simply consider them enjoy pretending different people around them. But a learned parent would understand that though it looks funny, plain and easy, yet it allows children to master certain life skills like dressing up, sharing and cooperating with others, taking care and being compassionate to others, communication skills and so much more. 

A few tips to encourage pretend play at home:

  1. Provide them with space and equipment: Restricting children to a play corner will not always suffice when it comes to imaginary play or pretend play. They might sometimes need your living room sofa or TV unit as a setting for their role play. Parents should allow them to use various props and space around your house for enhanced experience. This experience shall indeed bring in confidence and self-esteem to perform and thus, learn better. 
  2. Participate in their play: It is always good to have two, three, four or more people in the pretend play. This adds up more fun and drives the communication and action in a better way. Parents should ask children for permission to participate in their pretend play. Being in the play can let the parents direct the conversation in the right away. In this way, the parents can be either playmates helping or supporting children in various activities or present a problem for them to fix up. For example parents can pretend reading books to the baby while the children are doing other chores or simply asking them problem-solving questions like, “My car isn’t working now. What can we do?” 
  3. Make them the leaders: One of the main reasons to encourage pretend play is make children self-confident. While parents are participating in their children’s play, it becomes very easy to give them opportunities to lead under different scenarios. For example, Riya is pretending to play the pilot along with her mother who is co-pilot. The mother can suddenly pretend of losing control over the airplane because of based weather and calls Riya for help. The mother can then ask Riya to lead as she is the lead Pilot. 
  4. Read to them every day: It is important to read stories to them every day. Reading can give them new ideas based on different settings like market place, hospitals, schools, house etc. Reading also introduces them to different characters that they can reproduce during their pretend play. 

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