Friday, July 12, 2024
The Parents' Voice

Pretend Play

One of the things I love most about children is their ability to pretend. They can become anything or anyone at the drop of a hat. One minute your child is, well, your child, and the next minute they may be their teacher or grandma’s dog, they may choose to be a chef or the cashier from the grocery store. The stories they can come up with are hilarious and often so similar to real life. They love to mimic those they trust and admire which often means they play out scenes that have happened right in their own homes.
Graduating from Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and working in both daycares and classrooms and having had three little ones, have given me many chances to explore pretend play. In ECCE each student had to come up with a prop box, a bin filled with things to pull out for children to develop a pretend play theme. For instance you might fill your bin with things to play pirates, or ice cream shop, or birthday party, or beach day. This was one of my favourite projects in school. Having these bins at your disposal when working in daycare was like gold.
Pretend play is a very important aspect of learning that children need to experience. It allows them to talk about things happening around them that they may not understand, or that scare them, or that they love. Us parents and educators get to have a glimpse at things going on in their lives without them directly telling us. It helps us to understand how they are internalizing the going ons around them. Pretend play also allows children to be creative, they get to invent stories and roles and be someone or something they aren’t. Pretending has no rules. I have gathered some ideas of ways to incorporate pretend play into your child’s daily life.

Gathering the materials: Even though I’m not working in daycare these days, I remember the days that I incorporated pretend play in my own home for my children. There are so many everyday items in our home that our little ones can use for their play. Some of these include aprons, shirts (an old shirt from mom or a button up shirt from dad), any kind of hat (winter, summer, fancy) and shoes (mom’s old fancy shoes are a huge hit, or sandals or rubber boots). Just having these items stored in a bag or bin that can be pulled out can create endless hours of fun any day. Watch them become teachers, doctors, big sisters and cashiers. Other things to include in your pretend play bin may be old Halloween costumes, headbands, old cell phones, necklaces (although this depends on the age of your children as this can be a choking hazard with little ones), work gloves, oven mitts, eye patches, wallets, keys, pieces of old hose (to use as a fire hose or anything else they come up with). Really and truly anything can be used in pretend play. Here are a few items you should search yard sales for that will be perfect for pretend play: cash registers (you can easily make play money with paper, as well as play credit cards), play hats (such as firefighter hats, construction worker hats), doctor kits, doll strollers, play dishes and food (you can even use real plastic dishes or tins, like muffin tins and pie plates).
Setting the scene: When you first introduce pretend play materials to your children you need to initially “set the scene” for them. They will most likely not do what you think they will with the materials you set out (and that’s fantastic) but they may also not have a clue what they’re supposed to do with random objects either. Bring some of your materials to a space your child/children like to play in (living room, their room, hallway) and set out the clothing/toys that you have. Let’s say you set out a “mailbox”, apron, cash register, play money, backpack, paper, crayons and envelopes. You can help them choose roles and start their play, one person can be the mail carrier, one person can be the post master and the other person can make letters to mail. Let them go to town, see how they play out the roles. They may need no help at all, and they may not know what a postmaster does. You may need to help them out for the first few times you bring out these items – or perhaps a visit to the mail will help with this also. Soon you will hear them making up stories and choosing roles on their own. Enjoy watching them explore and be who they want to be. Repeat this process frequently with varied props and they will soon be inventing their own scenes.
I miss the days of pretend play in my home – my role was always dictated to me and always changed multiple times – if you’re in it right now – enjoy. It goes by way too fast.

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