One of the big cognitive development phases that preschool kids go through is using their imagination in what we call pretend play. Kids practice expressing themselves and create imaginary worlds in which they take on a role and the characters around them – siblings, soft toys, or other character toys – play a part too.
Many parents enjoy a bit of pretend play with their kids, but quickly feel the need to get on with life – those real tasks on the to do list ranging from household chores to administration and even work for the many WAHMs out there. How can we encourage this important phase while still keeping the rest of our world humming along?
1. Create a home corner or cubby house at home.
This does not require a major investment in plastic or wooden replica kitchens if your budget does not stretch that far. Pick up an old box (there are often plenty available at Bunnings Warehouse near the check out) and use a little creativity to cut out windows, draw a sink or stove top, or if your little one prefers, a tool bench and workshop table.
2. Choose a dress up figure.
Old fashioned paper dolls have been brought right into the modern era in the form of magnetic dress-up figurines. There are models for girls and boys and several manufacturers to choose from. Melissa and Doug do a good range for younger kids and Mudpuppy has an excellent selection for primary school ages.
3. Encourage imaginative play at all ages.
As they get older, the same desire to imagine and engage in fantasy will see them enjoy playing with a dolls house or creating fantasy worlds with dinosaurs, jet planes or other figurines. Encourage mixing and matching of the parts of different toys when they want to create a make-believe world. After all re-sorting them will develop mathematical skills later.
Once kids get started with an involved imaginative play, they’ll be happy for extended periods. Our kids will guide us. We just need to give them plenty of leeway to imagine and act out their ideas. They might develop from imitating what they see mum and dad doing at home to becoming puppies, dinosaurs and eventually other people exploring what different professions might be like.
Is there a favourite pretend play in your house?
Kelly is the founder of Oola – Fun toys that teach, a home based business that brings the best of educational toys to your doorstep. Kelly is mother of three and former digital media executive who is passionate about learning through play and balancing digital and analog entertainment for kids. Oola seeks out stylish and unique toys that provide open ended play so that kids can self direct their entertainment building independence for them and a few minutes break for parents. All products from Oola come with free gift wrapping – what child doesn’t like unwrapping a toy? – and fast delivery for a low flat rate across Australia. You can follow Oola on Facebook and on Twitter.
You can review Oola on Babies and Toddlers.