Pretend Play for Toddlers and Why It Should be Encouraged
Toddlers are very curious about the world around them. They learn a lot from what they see, hear and feel.
Have you ever wondered why they can pick up a block of wood and pretend it is an aeroplane or grab a wooden stick as if it were a microphone? It is simply their way of learning: they learn by using their imaginations.
Toddlers can use an object that embodies something else and give it action and motion. This is called pretend play. Although it sounds simple, pretend play is very essential in the completion of development milestones.
There are various ways that a toddler can pretend. While playing the part of a doctor who is saving a life, wearing a tutu and dancing like a ballerina or creating a makeshift house and acting like mummy and daddy, pretend play can help your child discover new play ideas, stimulate their emotional and mental development, develop their capacity for empathy and cooperative play, and allow them to think creatively and solve problems.
Why Pretend Play Should be Encouraged
As a parent, you might be wondering why pretend play is important and why it should be encouraged. Here are the reasons why.
Pretend play cultivates creative thinking and imagination. Several studies have shown that pretend play builds up your child’s cognitive abilities and creativity. By focusing themselves in pretend play, toddlers are presented with the favourable circumstance to exercise their imagination, allow their brain to think creative thoughts and ultimately learn to comprehend the world around them for themselves.
Imagination is simply not child’s play. It is also a cognitive skill that gives us the capacity to solve problems in creative ways and this skill is essential not only for toddlers but also for adults as well. So it is very important for a child to develop this skill early on in life.
Albert Einstein said, “A true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” This is very true because the development of imagination during our tender age has made us capable of accomplishing tasks that are required to live our daily lives. As adults, we use imagination to solve our complicated life situations, create plans for our future, discover new things in life and improve the stature of our lives.
Pretend play stimulates emotional and social development. When toddlers are fully engaged in imaginative play by controlling toys in their own special way or pretending to be someone else by assuming the character of a doctor, teacher, police, soldier, etc. They are simply examining or exploring the emotional and social roles they might take on later in life. Their minds are trying to grasp the idea of them as individuals and how they can fit into this world as individuals.
Pretend play also encourages empathy, it gives them an idea on what life is like when walking in somebody else’s shoes. If they will learn how to empathise, they will eventually learn how to cooperate and learn to take on responsibilities.
Even though toddlers have selfish tendencies, which is perfectly normal, imaginative play will allow them to mature and respond emphatically towards others. Imagine a group of toddlers pretending to play as members of a family living in one house: this will encourage toddlers to set aside their moments of selfishness and begin to collaborate or cooperate with others.
Aside from developing their sense of empathy, collaboration and cooperation, pretend play can also develop their sense of self, self-esteem, self-confidence and impulse control.
Pretend play can enhance communication skills. Roleplay and imaginative play enable toddlers to test out and explore the power of language and communication. It will give them the idea that words can be used to send their thoughts and ideas to other people.
Pretend play is a great way to expose toddlers to new vocabulary. So if they are playing new scenarios, chances are, they will learn new words. Take for instance a group of toddlers playing the roles of a doctor, nurse and patient. These kids can spend their entire playtime learning new words associated with working in the hospital.
By engaging roleplay and imaginative play, toddlers can start to develop their vocabulary so that they can express their thoughts and feelings in a positive way. This will also encourage them to listen to what other toddlers would want to say so they can understand each other. This is a very important skill that must be learned as early as possible.
Pretend play can enhance cognitive abilities. By participating in this kind of play, toddlers will be required to think, learn and solve problems depending on the scenarios or games they want to play. They will be compelled to think about what games they want to play, what roles they should take on, what materials or toys they need, and how they can solve a ‘pretend problem’ that comes out as they are playing the game. This will help children develop their cognitive skills which they can use as a toddler and all throughout their adult life as well.
Because memories are formed during pretend play, toddlers can use these memories to recreate past encounters while doing an imaginative play. This abstract thinking will help them work out what will happen during a certain scenario, manage their thoughts and feelings and help to solve any problems they may come across.
Pretend play can contribute to physical growth. Pretend play is often very physical because it requires them to move their bodies in accordance with the scenarios they have in mind. This will help them develop their fine and gross motor skills.
A more physical roleplaying scenario appears to have a good effect on the development of the frontal lobe, the part of our brain which regulates our behaviour. By playing games which involve a bit of tumbling, as long it is well-monitored and does not go overboard, it will help children learn how to control themselves and determine what kind of behaviours are appropriate or not.
Above all else, pretend play is a whole lot of fun! So if you are looking for toys that are safe and fun to use, Beehive Toys has a great collection of bikes, ride-ons, wooden toys and soft toys that will encourage pretend play!