5 Simple Ways to Encourage Pretend Play

Filed in Blog Posts by on 01/28/2016 0 Comments

5 Simple Ways to Encourage Pretend Play

My youngest child could play pretend all day long.  She frequently tells me about her exciting make believe exploits; most recently telling me about her trip to the North Pole (where she had the opportunity to work alongside some of the finest members of Santa’s elf team). My son however requires to be lead and entertained. Ask him to pretend to be like something or someone and it’s a real challenge for him. Pretend play just doesn’t come as naturally to him.

As many professionals know, pretend play helps to develop the whole child as well as being a hugely important part of childhood. It’s important as parents for us to acknowledge that ‘play’ is not just a leisurely past time but it’s how our children learn. But what if your child isn’t keen to initiate play; how can you increase opportunities for pretend play?

Engage With and Encourage Your Child

Parent Engaging with Child

Portrait of a happy family having fun painting with palms and fingers

There are of course endless ways you can engage with your child. Engaging through pretend play is just one way that your children will benefit from immensely. It will give you a chance to positively enhance their learning experiences and boost their self-esteem. More importantly, it can really help to strengthen your relationship with them. The relationship they will use as the foundation for every other relationship they make during their lives.

Try modelling pretend play behavior and inviting your child to join in. Copying pretend play helps to build up a bank of ideas for your child to try out at a later date.

Set the Stage

Group play materials by specific theme and create ‘prop boxes’. Those themes could range from simple themes like ‘the beach’ or ‘the farm’ through to more complex themes such as ‘bank’, ‘doctor’ or ‘science lab’.  These boxes can then be used to inspire imagination, promote role-playing and exploration.

The materials in each box should encourage children to adopt different roles during which children can practice viewing the world through someone else’s eyes. Stick with simple ideas. Playthings that chirp, beep, sing and move on their own leave very little to the imagination.

Set Aside Time

Schedule Time for Play

Mark Out Time for Play

Meaningful play requires at least 30 minutes of time. This allows the child to a choose roles, select props and think about the dramatic play scenarios they could act out.  Given the huge amount of benefits pretend play holds, it is arguably just as important to spend time on this as any other scheduled activity. Instead of filling the day with scheduled activities, try giving your child the opportunity to play on his / her on and let their imagination wonder.

Read and Tell Stories

Girl and her mother reading a book at home

Read books together and tell tall tales.

Books are fantastic for many, many reasons. They are also an excellent way to set the scene for pretend play.  Not only do they introduce your child to new characters and situations but they also show how a narrative is structured. Ask open-ended questions or why not try out making up your own stories. This all encourages imaginative thinking!

If your child isn’t partial to pretend play? It doesn’t mean that he or she lacks imagination. They may be a master builder or spend hours creating and exploring in the sand box. That’s fine and a lot of these activities can entail make-believe play too. Provide a nurturing environment for all types of pretend play, but don’t worry if your child prefers one way over another.

Each child is different. Each child is special and each child is beautiful.

 Morna Pollock, Founder
Morna Pollock is the founder of Bramble Box, www.brambleboxprops.com.

Bramble Box creative activity kits and monthly subscription boxes for kids age 3 – 8 contain all the materials required for hours of educational, open-ended fun; building and strengthening essential development skills, allowing opportunities for parents to engage with their children and explore the world around them.

Our themed kits encourage kids to investigate, create, discover and imagine through science, math, art and more. Hours of fun and learning and much more than just crafts! With a new theme every month, such as Wizard Science, Post Office, Ice Cream Shop and World Traveler, our boxes provide hands on, open-ended materials to provoke thought, discussion and inspire imagination and role play.

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