Supporting Pretend Play

As we discussed in class, pretend play is essential for cognitive development.  When children pretend to be some body else they perform cognitive tasks such as narrative recall, empathy, reinforcing rules, and self regulation. When they play with someone else they also learn social skills such as taking turns, delegating responsibility, and leadership.  Researchers also believe that abstract thinking develops through pretend play, and this can lead to things such as mathematical skills, literary skills, and memorization skills later. There is also evidence that we need not be concerned about too much rough play, as long as it is somewhat controlled. Studies have shown that rough play actually helps develop the frontal lobe, which is responsible for making decisions and inhibiting behavior later on. What this means is that by playing rough kids learn that too rough is not acceptable and when rough play is acceptable, and when it is not, rather than becoming bullies as some think rough play leads to.   However it needs to be kept to more of a non- violent type of play, as research shows that children who do engage in violent fantasy play tend to be angrier and less cooperative than children who do not.

The higher the quality of pretend play, the more likely it is for cognitive development to thrive.  As parents we need to understand how important pretend play is, and support it.   Start by noticing the pretend play and commenting on it.  Saying things like “I like how your playing”, or “what an imagination!” tells the child that it is important and reinforces the play. Parents can encourage the child to talk about their fantasy play, however do not stop the child when they are deep in play with questions, because it is hard for a child to go from fantasy to reality and back to fantasy again.  A parent can also have plenty on hand for the child to use to support pretend play.  Items such as large empty boxes, sheets for fort building, paper and pencils, dress up clothes, books, play money, old jewelry, etc. encourages several scenarios for a child to explore.  Parents can also join in the pretend play and help the child’s imagination grow by suggesting and introducing new concepts, but be careful not to take over.  Always follow the child’s lead.  When parents follow and support the child’s plan it creates self esteem in the child and develops the child’s independence.

Jennifer Poulos


~ by sun71 on October 22, 2009.

One Response to “Supporting Pretend Play”

  1. I do think that pretend play is important for a child; but also I think it’s good for a child to learn how to do it in real life as well, such as cooking, playing house, or pretending to be DR. They shoudl learn to do activites that are in real life and will benefit them as well.

    -Becky Knoblauch Smart

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