The Magic Of Pretend Toys
Pretend toys are wonderful, they allow children the opportunity to mimic the adults they see in their life. A toy kitchen for example allows children to recreate actions they see their parents and other adults do numerous times a day. They can make their parents a meal, pretend to run a café, or they can even host a cooking show.
The Benefits of pretend toys and imaginary play
Imaginative play gives children the opportunity to explore, identify, and understand the adult world. They can learn and develop their social, organisation, language, problem solving, creative, and emotional skills whilst also giving them the space to relax.
Imaginative play gives children the chance to recreate things that have happened in real life as well as scenes and scenarios from their favourite books, TV shows, or films. This can be very insightful for parents, teachers, and caregivers as it can help you understand how your child perceives the world, I also find it helpful as I get more of an idea what happens when my son is in childcare from observing his play than I do when I ask him (he rarely tells me anything about his day).
Imaginative play can also boost as child’s independence and self-confidence. When they are engaged in their own world they have the chance to experience and discover in a safe environment, this can be useful when they encounter real life scenarios. If you take starting school as an example. On their first day of school everything is new and scary, they go home, and they play pretend school using their memory of the events that happened that day.
They have had an opportunity to process and reflect on a new experience. This can help them overcome any anxieties leaving them to feel more reassured and confident when returning. Imaginative play gives your child the chance to express themselves. If you child is feeling angry, sad, or scared but does not know how to express or explain themselves using words, then quite often they will find it easier to express themselves in play as it is familiar and safe to them.
Ideas for pretend play
As with most things, a good place to start is with your child’s likes or interests, however most children enjoy playing with a pretend toy kitchen or a tool bench, most children will also enjoy playing pretend shop or doctors. There are lots of children’s role play toys available on the market, these could be simple things like a play food and/or plates and cups, tool kit, cash register and/ or play money, or a doctor’s kit.
If you did not want to buy toys, then household objects that you already own will be good enough. You children can also use the toys they already have, never underestimate your child’s ability to turn anything they find into a phone or a magic wand.
You can also make things, instead of throwing household waste away you can use these things to make almost anything from a drum to a rocket ship.
Your role in pretend play
Pretend or imaginative play is mostly an activity that a child will perform either alone or with other children. However, as a parent/ teacher/ or caregiver there is still a lot of things you can do to ensure that your child gets the most out of pretend play.
I mentioned earlier in this post that you can provide various tools for you child to use during pretend play, however this isn’t all you can do. You can also give your child a wide variety of experiences in which to inspire them. It does not have to be anything fancy or extravagant, it could be simple things such as involving your child is cooking or household chore, you can even take your child with you to run errands such as going to the post office or the bank. These things may, on the surface, appear boring however to a child they allow them to witness how the world around them works.
Children, especially young children, mostly love to mimic adults and they also enjoy being ‘helpful’, by allowing your child into the adult world and to ‘assist’ you, you are giving them the chance to learn how to bake a cake, load the washing machine, post a letter, pay money to the bank. Yes, it would probably be quicker and easier if you did these things yourself, but your child will really get a lot out of these experiences.
There is also the possibility of you joining in with your child’s imaginative play, you may be able to pick your own role, or your child may pick a role for you. My son loves getting a plate (which isn’t always an actual plate) and piling it with food (which isn’t always actual food) and handing it to us so that we can eat. This is a game that my son enjoys playing with us and he is always the server (he will sometimes also serve himself food) and we are always the ones to be served.
It’s all fun and games
It’s important to remember that it doesn’t matter exactly how your child plays or if they are even using resources correctly, let your child’s imagination run wild. If your child wants to involve you in their game then play with them, let them take the lead and see where the game goes. If they do not want to involve you then take the opportunity to observe them, it really is amazing how much information they take in without us really realising.
It does not matter how your child plays, with or without dressing up clothes or with or without proper equipment. You child will get just as much enjoyment and stimulation playing with something store bought as they will something homemade/ put together.
The most important thing is that your child enjoys themselves and has fun.