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The Importance of Pretend Play for Preschoolers

by Marnie Bii | October 20th, 2015 | Behavior, Preschool

preschooler in dads tie (400x400)As your preschooler insists on changing her name for the 100th time this week, you might wonder about the benefits of engaging in pretend play sessions. Preschoolers actually explore their world internally by initiating this type of imaginative play. They may try out new personas, act out different scenarios or even elicit reactions to learn about how their world works. Pretend play also has a number of pay offs that will benefit your child for a lifetime.


Social Skills

Preschoolers have a limited number of personal interactions to draw on when navigating social activities. As a result, kids may feel anxious or nervous when faced with new social engagements. Pretend play allows them to try out conversations and other social activities without all of the external pressure. For example, your child might practice giving orders or praise to see how the recipients respond.

The ability to test out these scenarios allows kids to tackle new social situations with confidence. If your child is facing a difficult event, like going to daycare for the first time, you can center pretend play around that scenario to allow your kids to practice participation in the expected daily activities.

Critical Thinking

Even with regular practice, critical thinking skills often take a lifetime to build. Pretend play helps kids begin establishing the building blocks to learning critical thinking skills. With pretend play, kids may need to try out different resolution options to navigate their imagined scenario.

Since imaginative play offers endless problem solving options, you might be surprised at how your kids decide to solve the issue at hand. You can help your kids build multi-faceted problem solving skills by throwing an implausible wrench into the works. For example, as kids near a solution, you can imagine up another roadblock, such as a dragon arriving at the only path out of town, to encourage them to try out a different way out of the situation.


You can encourage this enrichment activity by playing an active role in your child’s make believe world. Your child will get a kick out of mom or dad turning into their favorite characters. You can jump in when your kid initiates this activity or just take on the role at random times. Pretend play turns mundane activities, like waiting in line or sitting in traffic, a whole lot more fun. Make sure to take turns leading the pretend activities and conversations to facilitate leadership and teamwork skills.

Although you can buy pretend play props, like tea party sets, swords and houses, it is often better to allow your kids to reinvent found items throughout the home. For example, your kids can use wooden spoons as swords, oars, wands or any number of interesting objects. Keep sheets, cardboard boxes and other such objects on hand for building forts that can turn into homes, castles, storefronts or schools. Encourage your child to explore upcoming events through an imaginative lens to keep nervousness at bay when the big day arrives.

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