Play is what makes childhood wonderful. But it’s also crucial for learning and developing. According to children’s psychologists, play is what nurtures almost everything that’s important in early childhood – from social development to language, to well being, to motor coordination and even reading and being able to do math.
One kind of play that is especially important for children’s communication development is pretend play. Also known as dress up, dramatic play, fantasy play, this way of playing is all about children engaging in make-believe activity.
Make-believe games are known to encourage social development as they give children a chance to explore the world from different perspectives. Moreover, they teach kids the delicate art of negotiation as they have to consider their own behaviors and signals in order to send clear messages to the other participants (kids) about what they are doing.
Pretend play can be fairly simple such as pretending to drink tea from a pretend toy cup or more complex such as taking on a role of a baby for example, in a pretend family situation where there is also a mommy and daddy playing. However, a lot of modern toys are available in the market today and many of them can limit children’s play by dictating how the child plays. Giving a child a more simple, open-ended object allows him/her to use their imagination to decide how to use that object.
Experts explain that parents don’t need to buy expensive toys for their little ones. They say that the best toys for children to encourage pretend play are open-ended toys that can be used in a variety of ways such as teepee childrens tents, building blocks and dress up accessories.
A teepee childrens tent, for example, provides an environment for children where they can let their imagination run wild and transform it into a fortress or castle, a hidden chamber, a house of their own, etc. For such play, a lot of movement is required such as crawling and turning, which is extremely important for a healthy development as these movements coordinate the brain hemispheres. And in addition to being fun for individual play, sharing a teepee childrens tent with other kids can also be a great way to learn how to interact with others because kids will need to negotiate rules and follow them as well as demonstrate consideration for the other kid’s wishes or needs.
Building blocks are another great toy to encourage pretend play. As children build, they solve problems such as how to make a tower more stable. But make sure you choose a set that is open-ended so your child doesn’t think he/she needs to build a certain thing. Give your child building blocks and watch him/her create structures that can be combined with other toys.
Also, encourage your children to come up with story-lines different than the ones from Disney princesses and Pixar characters for basic fun outfits and accessories. Search your closet for pieces that make great dress up accessories or let your child do this on his/her own.