importance of pretend play

Fairies, Leprechauns, and Imaginative Play

A great deal of the appeal of St. Patrick’s Day is the fun of imagining. Fairies, leprechauns, and imaginative play can happen on other days too.

We’ve all heard Einstein’s words, “Imagination is more powerful than knowledge.” Somehow, fantasy takes second place to reality. But children—and also adults, need imagination as part of the real world. We understand other people’s feelings when we can imagine how they feel. We can see their point of view when we imagine how things look to them.

To help children develop critical social skills, adults often ask, “How would you feel? What would it be like if someone did that to you?” Essentially, we are asking children to imagine.

imaginative playSome ideas for pretend play about leprechauns and fairies would be to invite children to set up a miniature space for them. Big Sister found some small objects in a drawer in the bathroom and imagined that The Three Bears found a fairy space when they went for a walk to let their porridge cool. She proudly showed what she’d created.

This is a photo of another child making fairy stew with nature items. This is a pretend activity that can be done over and over. Hands are busy and so are minds.

fairy soupPlaying in the sand box, might be digging for leprechaun treasure. Who knows what’s buried and just waiting to be found? A rock might be a magical crystal that has amazing powers.

Kids can imagine they are fairies and leprechauns. They may have to fight giants or other creatures. In pretend play, kids get to feel brave and powerful. In the real world, they often feel just the opposite.

Brains are incredibly busy during pretend play solving problems, planning, creating, predicting, comparing, trying, talking, and more. Fairies, leprechauns, and imaginative play are a way for children to stretch their thinking and understanding, helping them to go both beyond and within reality. Just imagine…

Dinovember: Pretend Play and Dinosaurs

Did you know that children’s imaginations are taking a more than 60-million-year leap when they play with dinosaurs? November is a special month to encourage pretend play because it’s Dinovember! Dinovember began with parents Refe and Susan Tuma who wanted to preserve the wonder of childhood for just a little longer for their children, so in their house, the dinosaurs come alive at night and have adventures.

dinosaur pretend playAs young children engage in pretend play, their dinosaur toys are alive, especially alive with possibilities. Imagination is a tremendously powerful tool of the mind. In the words of Carl Sagan, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were, but without it we go nowhere.” In their play, kids and dinosaurs can go anywhere.

Did you know when children pretend, even though the action is only taking part in their brains, that their bodies respond? When children pretend they are going up in an elevator all the way to clouds in the sky, their eyes go up. When they pretend they are flying the muscles in the arms move. Not only is their action in bodies, but in brains too that are forming new pathways and connections.

We do not think of imagining as a skill but kids need time and opportunities to develop it. A few plastic dinosaurs can invite all kinds of pretend play. Usually, kids will create their own story-lines, but if the ‘dinosaurs’ only want to eat each other up, you can suggest they go on an adventure, such as camping. This gives a child a new direction for play and imagining. Dinosaurs might also like to play with or in something.

Pretend play is not just part of the imaginary world, it also helps kids with reality. Often, as parents we ask a child something like “What might happen if you just run without looking?” We are asking the child to imagine what could happen so s/he does not behave in certain ways.  Also, when we ask children how they might feel if someone wouldn’t let them play with a toy they wanted, we are expecting them to use their imaginations. Imagination and pretending are tools kids need for safety and relating to others.

Dinosaurs may have disappeared from the real world, but they are alive and well in play. How does your child imagine and pretend with dinosaurs?

Pretend Play Helps Your Child Get Ready For Kindergarten

Series Part #5: Pretend Play Can Help Get Ready for Kindergarten

helping kids before kindergartenThe imagination is a powerful tool and we can use it along with pretend play to help children get ready for starting kindergarten. Before school begins, kids can play they are going to kindergarten right at home. Stuffies, dolls, and grownups can be recruited to be part of the pretend play and the play will give us clues about a child’s concerns. Adults can watch or participate by taking on the role of  the teacher or another student.

During play time, we can see what a child thinks happens at kindergarten, almost as if we can see inside their thoughts. What happens if a child needs to go to the bathroom? Do kids get to have snack if they are hungry? What about if they miss their moms and dads? The words the kids use for the pretend students will echo their feelings and emotions. As children pretend, even though the action is only taking part in their brains, their bodies respond. When children pretend they are going up in an elevator all the way to the sky, their eyes go up. When they pretend they are flying, the muscles in the arms move. We can read children’s body language to see if they are closed in and anxious about starting kindergarten, or eager and open. Pretend play can help children cope with stress and fears. Kids can imagine different scenarios and try out possible solutions,

Pretending and imagining do not end with childhood, that’s where they begin! Just like other skills and abilities they get better with practice. While pretending and imagining are necessary for fantasy, they are also important in reality. As a parent, have you ever asked your child something like “What might happen if you just run without looking?” We ask the child to imagine what could happen so s/he does not do that again. Also, when we ask kids how they might feel if someone grabs a toy away, kids again need to use their imaginations. Both safety and empathy need imagination and pretending. Not only can they help kids cope with the upcoming adventure of kindergarten, they are valuable thinking and learning strategies too.

For a play-of-the-day, can you and your child pretend kindergarten?