Let’s Pretend

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Make-believe play is one of the major keys to helping your child learn how the world works. Pretending promotes a child’s understanding of
social interactions and allows them to explore different solutions to day-to-day problems. Pretending allows a child to be in control of a situation in a world in which they feel they have none. In very young children, make-believe play is very simple. It usually begins when your child uses an object to be something else. Some toddlers will even begin talking to their toys. Children as young as 12 months may play with a doll by placing a blanket over it and patting its back as if it were a baby. Older children often pretend to be someone else by copying the way they act and speak. Children often imitate real people and situations, but will mimic characters they’ve seen on television or from books you’ve read to them. Children who enjoy make-believe play, and do it often, are more likely to do well in school. They are also more likely to get along with other children their age.

Superheroes, princesses and wizards
As your child gets older their make-believe play might include taking on fantasy roles, such as superheroes, princesses or wizards. Sometimes their play is based on books, such as playing the characters and actions of The Three Little Bears. Toddlers who pretendplay together begin to share their make-believe worlds with each other, thereby enabling them to work out social dynamics within the boundaries of a world they understand. When children play together, they learn to understand and co-operate with each other. It’s also useful to keep giving your toddlers new information and new experiences. Take them on trips to places such as the zoo, a bakery or a grocery store. Find books about the things your children like to pretend to be when they are playing, like firefighters, cowboys, ballerinas or astronauts.

Make-believe play and real life
Make-believe play can help when your child has strong feelings about an event. For example, if your child is nervous to see a doctor or if a family member has to be in hospital, act out a doctor’s visit to help ease your child’s nerves. Many preschool children work through some of their feelings by acting out these kinds of events. If your family is having a new baby, your children can safely act out their mixed feelings and fears with a doll, some clothes and blankets. Make-believe play can help a child sort out the emotions and fears surrounding an event in their lives. You can join your child’s make-believe play. You can play dress-up, become a customer in the store or a child waiting for dinner, or perhaps even speak to the dolls and stuffed toys along with your child. Make-believe play helps with early learning by helping children develop thinking and language skills. It also helps children learn to get along with each other, be creative and learn to control their emotions.

Encourage your child’s make-believe play
You can encourage your child’s make-believe play. Play with your children, and follow their lead. Help your children make their make-believe play last longer and help them make it more complicated.
One good way to do this is to provide props:
• Toys (dolls, model appliances, cars and trucks).
• Old, safe household utensils (such as spoons) and dishes.
• Other things, such as empty plastic food containers, oversized cardboard boxes,
used clothing and scraps of fabric.

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