Playing pretend games allow children to explore a whole new world using just their imagination, often leading to them coming up with hilarious characters and stories. It may seem like just silly fun and games, but did you know that playing pretend is actually one of the most important parts of a child’s development? Not only does it help understand the way little ones see the rest of the world, it helps them make sense of their emotions and develops their social understanding.
Playtime is often wrongly thought of as a treat for children rather than a tool for mental growth. In reality, playing pretend is an essential part of learning and developing, especially when it comes to social skills. According to Psychology Today, this type of play contributes towards a child’s cognitive development as they take on character-like personas, often learnt by copying the behaviour of those close to them. It therefore helps them understand how emotions may affect people differently based on individual problems, which further assists in problem solving through logical reasoning, despite it being a ‘make believe’ scenario.
You can easily nurture your child’s development by introducing new games and ideas that target specific areas of growth. Promoting such games can grow their imagination and develop skills as you introduce them to new scenarios or roles. Muddy Puddles’ guide to building a mud kitchen is a great game that develops social and problem-solving skills, as well as advancing their physical development. Not only does this easy game bring them closer to nature but it also benefits their cognitive growth by boosting social development. From the building and decorating of the mud kitchen to simply having fun when it’s complete, each step of this mud kitchen tutorial is made to aid your child’s progression.
As mentioned, playing pretend using games such as the mud kitchen can help your child foster social skills and boost an understanding of relationships. According to Family Lives, children become absorbed in play as it builds self worth and confidence as they gain a sense of their own abilities. As mentioned above, providing your children with a range of different activities can offer them new opportunities to explore their imaginations. Dolls and dollhouses, for example, allow young ones to explore family life, as well as encouraging creativity – you can learn a lot of what they think of the world when watching them play with dolls.
As well as cognitive development, pretend play is useful in promoting the use of both fine and gross motor skills. Children often use all of their senses and muscles to express themselves through pretend play as it promotes the larger movements needed to develop gross motor skills. These skills are required as they assist in muscle strength, coordination and postural control among other things. If you want to encourage these skills, try to incorporate physical activities into your child’s pretend play, such as dancing, sports and jumping.
Fine motor skills are just as important as gross motor skills, and pretend play is the best way of promoting the use of smaller motions. Introduce your child to using art in their play through the use of crayons, paintbrushes and play dough, as these small movements can greatly affect hand-eye co-ordination. According to Nursery World, immature motor skills have been linked to lower educational performance as they support the ability to sit still and develop the hand-eye coordination needed for tasks such as writing or reading. Pretend play should be promoted as it’s one of the simplest but most beneficial ways of advancing these skills, which are vital later in life.