The Power of Make Belief: 5 Benefits of Pretend Play
A common question we get asked here is what activities we have for kids to play with at our play cafe. Are there slides and climbing structures for kids to burn energy on? While so many indoor playgrounds focus on physical play, I designed Chickadee Family Café to focus on pretend play, or imaginative play as it’s sometimes called.
Why, you ask?
I wanted Chickadee Family Café to be a relaxing place for adults to be able to connect with their littles as well as grown-up friends and partners, and after chasing my own little through tunnels and slides and working up a sweat at indoor playgrounds myself, I really didn’t feel that these spaces provided the relaxing atmosphere I was seeking.
But there’s another reason I chose to create a space designed around pretend play and that is the importance that imaginative play has in children’s development. Here are the top five ways imaginative play aids in development.
1 – Pretend Play Allows Kids to Learn About the World Around Them
We know kids learn by observing, mimicking and doing. Pretend play allows kids to learn about the world around them by mimicking what they see in their daily lives and make sense of the world around them.
When I bought my son a play kitchen one of the first things he did was grab the coffee pot and start to pour mama a cup of coffee. “Hot”, he whispered as he carefully handed it to me. While I hadn’t thought he’d been paying attention to my morning routine, clearly he was watching more than I thought he was.
2 – Pretend Play Allows Kids to Flex Their Empathy Muscle
When kids put on a chef jacket or a construction worker vest, they are getting the opportunity to experience being someone else, to experience the world through someone else’s eyes. They get to fix a truck like a mechanic, cook dinner like a chef in a 5-star restaurant, heal a sick animal like a veterinarian. Through pretend play, kids get to act out stories about other people’s lives, explore emotions and stretch their empathy muscle.
3 – Pretend Play Develops Social Skills
When engaging in imaginative play, kids are not only role playing and acting out various experiences, they are learning how to behave in a social environment. When playing with other children, they get to explore sharing, taking turns and creatively problem solving solutions.
4 – Pretend Play Fosters Early Literacy and Language Skills
Pretend play encourages kids to be storytellers, creating and enacting their own storylines. Pretend play promotes practicing newly learned vocabulary and learning new vocabulary. You can help your child develop their vocabulary by asking questions about what they’re doing. “Oh, are you using the stethoscope to check the doggy’s heartbeat?” “Are you cutting up a tomato?” “What vegetable is this that you’re cooking now?” Pretend play helps children experiment with language and become familiar with new vocabulary.
5 – Pretend Play Engages the Creative Mind
Have you ever given your child a cardboard box and watched as it became a Zamboni, a castle, or an airplane? Pretend play encourages children to be curious, to explore their imagination; all of which helps foster a love of learning!