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How to Spark Your Child’s Imagination Through Pretend Play
Sandy Siegman, M.S. Ed.
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Have you ever watched or listened to your child engage in pretend play with toys? With friends? You will probably hear your own words and tones reflected in the little one’s play. If you give your child a very large cardboard box, what kind of structure will it become in his or her imagination?

During pretend play, children learn about the power of language as they reenact stories and situations. As this learning process proceeds, their increased comfort levels grant them the confidence to begin experimenting with more challenging experiences. Additionally, as children engage in dramatic play, they start making sense of the world by actively experimenting with social and emotional roles. Children also build self-esteem as they discover they can pretend to be anything or anyone they want.

During cooperative pretend play, children interact with friends or adults while creatively problem-solving and practicing communication skills — which, in turn, helps develop their social skills. As children pretend during play with others, they learn to cooperate, negotiate, share, and wait their turn. Just as importantly, they learn empathy as they pretend to be different characters. Such activity enables them to take on another person’s perspective, granting them understanding of the thoughts and feelings of others. Pretend play is imaginative, fun, creative, and essential to child development.

Our Make Believe Boulevard® — exclusive to The Learning Experience® Academy of Early Education —functions as a learning center. Typically, this specially-designed room consists of five play-and-learning storefronts that include a fire station, general store, home living area, garage, and diner. Here, children can use the toys, equipment, prop boxes, and specially-designed facades to express themselves freely through role-play activities of their own devising.

Provide your child with a space in your home for dramatic play. Children often enjoy pretending under a table or a play tent. The area should be changed regularly with different props or toys in the interest of stimulating their creative faculties. Also, encourage pretend play to move outdoors — particularly as the weather improves — and let your children explore in a whole new way. Consider the list below as you seek out materials and themes that will spark and nurture your child’s imagination at home:

  • Cardboard boxes
  • Theme materials
  • Telephones, flashlights
  • Stuffed animals & dolls
  • Magazines, shopping bags, laundry baskets
  • Fabric pieces, blankets, old sheets to make a fort
  • Cash register, play money, old computer or keyboard
  • Old clothes, shoes, backpacks, pocketbooks, hats, gloves
  • Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic containers, silk flowers, recycled grocery boxes
  • Writing materials – colored pencils, markers, colored note paper, envelopes, clipboard

For more activities and ideas for dramatic play please visit the Imagination Station board  on our Pinterest page.

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