Pretend play is great for the imagination

We’ve been busy at home having indoor picnics, fighting crocodiles and dinosaurs, beating away the big bad wolf. Etc etc. (And more recently, or after watch Frozen to be exact, playing princess.)

Yes, the kids love to play pretend. I love to watch their dramatic eye-popping action and guffaw-inducing scripts, and I play along while trying my darnedest to fight back giggles.

Props like this picnic basket (featured below) from IKEA always help to start things going. So do puppets and costume props. Books are also great fodder for dramatisation. I remember one of the earliest times we did this was after we read We Are Going On A Bearhunt. For the longest time, the story captured the kids’ imagination and we always imagined the big bear was chasing after us, and of course they love the part where we all hide under the comforter most.

So here we are, having a picnic on our bed.

Kids are busy slurping ice-cream. Josh wears the look of “What’s going on” on his face.

Let's feed Josh

Ooh, let’s feed J some easter eggs. Yummy chocolate, baby J?

Let's shoot the bad guy

Oh no. The big bad wolf (A.K.A. papa) is coming to steal our yummy food! Quick, shoot him!

play_laugh

The poor wolf falls over while dodging JJ’s fireball. Kids fall over laughing.

Whew. Tired.

Whew…Pretend play is tiring. I give up…

pretending to be princess Elsa

I wanna be Elsa. (What’s new?)

What are the benefits of pretend play?

  • Helps children to explore their emotions and gives them a safe way to learn how to express / cope with difficult emotions like anger, jealousy, and aggression.
  • Encourages them to build bridges between different ideas and concepts, which is the foundation of creativity and symbolic/abstract thinking.
  • Helps children rehearse and prepare for upcoming real life events, such as moving house, or a visit to the dentist.
  • Helps them learn and develop social skills.

Pretend play gives you both permission to try on different emotions for size, and in doing so you’ll both gain confidence in experiencing and expressing a fuller range of human emotions. – Building Healthy Minds

How do we encourage pretend play?

  • I remember one of JJ’s first “pretend-playing” was when he was trying to cook me an egg. So real-life activities (cooking, shopping, a trip to the zoo, or an airplane ride) make great fodder for sparking a drama-activity.
  • Read books that inspire pretend play. Try Little Bear, Ladybug Girl Dresses Up, The Very Cranky Bear, or We Are Going On A Bearhunt.
  • Have lots of pretend-play items within their reach. Things like dressing up costumes (even an old handbag or hat), cooking / food items, and all sorts of puppets.

Mary-go-round dress on Vera, Fly Me To The Moon shirt on JJ, and The Bandit onesie on baby J have been sponsored by Baby Att. Inspired by the curiosity and imaginative powers of kids, Baby Att’s pieces have hand-sewn details that have become trigger points for story-telling sessions and quality interaction with our children.

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Little Lessons: Kids just wanna have fun

I recently learnt that kids can make games / entertainment out of anything. It’s like their innate superpower.

Here they are, transforming a stone staircase handrail at the Botanic Garden into a slide.

It’s sometimes handy to have big sturdy cardboard boxes lying around the house…

Because you never know who might wanna hide inside one day…Just to give you a little shock. 😉

Sometimes I feel in today’s rush to take on many things and multi-task, our kids lose out in terms of play-time. And we mums and dads don’t get down on the floor to play with them as much as we should / want to.

I hope they don’t inherit my rushed-ness and I hope I learn from them the ability to slow down, and explore more, think more, create more.

The emphasis these days is about primary-school readiness, and learning to read and write. But listen to what Jane Healy has to say:

“Misguided efforts to train preschoolers in skills more appropriate for kindergarten and first grade diverts valuable time and attention from their real learning needs. To become good readers children first need help in installing the cognitive and language furnishings that will make the brain a comfortable place for real literacy to dwell! During the early years these are best learned through active, hands-on experiences (e.g. playing, building, exploring, talking), imaginative social play, and listening with enjoyment to good children’s literature…”

– Endangered minds: Why children don’t think – and what we can do about it

During free play, children learn to make up things, conjure up stories, and dream up new worlds of funny-looking planets, galaxies, and googly-eyed monsters.

I had an interesting conversation recently with a speech therapist who specialises in paediatrics. Here’s what she said:

Kids today are not playing the way that they used to. Instead of climbing trees, they master the art of swiping iPads at an early age. Yet, parents expect their children to write properly when they are 4 years old. The problem is…we haven’t been giving them sufficient opportunities to strengthen their hands and fingers by engaging in different physical activities. So we shouldn’t be disappointed when they can’t write well at 4 or 5 either.

Children are designed to play and run around in the great outdoors. I think we adults too, need to unwind, get our hands dirty, and learn to just have fun again.

Every night I watch as my kids rough and tumble with their favourite toy in the world – daddy. And I secretly can’t wait to pop so I can join in the fray…

Now it’s your turn. What little lesson would you like to share this week? 🙂

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