Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pretend play

I am sure most of us remember playing ‘daddy”, ‘mummy’,’cooking”, ‘doctor’,”office”, ‘police’ when we were little.

I remember always nursing wounded cockroaches(yuck) and singing in front of the mirror or Tv. Telling everyone I would either be a musician or doctor (nobody had the guts to tell me that I was disturbing the neighbourhood with my croaky voice).

Thinking back, how did this kind of play affect your career choices, hobby choices, thought processes? How did it shape you? Do you see a connection?

This is called ‘pretend Play’ a very important learning process that is integral in shaping who we are today but that is slowly being replaced by full dependence on Nickelodeon, Disney Junior, Cartoon Network and various video games to occupy our kids.

Pretend play can be defined as a type of play where children accept and assign roles and then act them out. It is a time when they break through the walls of reality, pretend to be someone or something different from themselves and dramatize situations and actions to go along with the roles they have chosen to play.

While this type of play may be viewed as frivolous by some, it remains an integral part of the developmental learning process by allowing children to develop skills in such areas as abstract thinking, literacy, math, social skills and fine and gross motor skills through physical plays, in a timely, natural manner. When a child lacks skills of imaginative play, it's an indication of Autism or a developmental  dysfunction.

Benefits of Pretend Play

Language Skills
Have you ever listened in as your child engages in imaginary play with his toys or friends? You will probably hear some words and phrases you never thought he knew! In fact, we often hear our own words reflected in the play of children. Kids can do a perfect imitation of mom, dad, driver, doctor, teacher!

Pretend play helps your child begin to build his vocabulary and register of words and  understand the power of language. In addition, by pretend playing with others, he learns that words give him the means to reenact a story or organize play. This process helps your child to make the connection between spoken and written language — a skill that will later help him learn to read.

Thinking out of the box
By incorporating objects into pretend play, children can extend or elaborate on their play. In the beginning they will mainly rely on realistic materials. From there they will move on to material substitution, such as using a comb to represent a microphone and progress to holding in their hands in such as way to indicate that they are singing with the micro phone.

Social and Emotional Skill Development
When children come together in a dramatic play experience, they have to agree on a topic (basically what “show” they will perform), negotiate roles, and cooperate to bring it all together. By recreating some of the life experiences they actually face, they learn how to cope with any fears and worries that may accompany these experiences.

When your child engages in pretend (or dramatic) play, he is actively experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. Through cooperative play, he learns how to take turns, share responsibility and creatively solve problems.

When your child pretends to be different characters, he has the experience of "walking in someone else's shoes," which helps teach the important moral development skill of empathy. It is normal for young children to see the world from their own egocentric point of view but through maturation and cooperative play, your child will begin to understand the feelings of others.

Outgoing children learn proper boundaries of interaction through modeling while shy kids learn to practice social interaction within their comfort zone.
Your child also builds self-esteem when he discovers he can be anything just by pretending.They tend to control their emotions during play and you observe very limited temper tantrums during pretend play.

Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
Role playing games lead children to face situations that far exceed kids' real-life experiences. Children have to find solutions to dilemmas that they create, usually situations related to things they observe in their parents' lives.

Therefore, solutions often mimic those that parents choose in similar circumstances. Although kids may not always act logically during tough pretend dilemmas, the very process of problem solving becomes habitual. By practicing problem solving in an artificial environment, kids are better prepared to think of creative solutions to their own real-life problems.

Educational Comprehension
Children are more likely to learn difficult and uninteresting material when parents therapists and teachers transform those lessons into games that are fun and engaging. One example of this is trying to teach kids addition and subtraction.

To liven up these lessons, teachers can create a pretend grocery store. Students can use pretend fruit and vegetables to learn new math skills. Instead of doing problems on paper, kids can show their new understanding by pretending they are cashiers at the store. The teacher can ask students to sell two candies,then add three more candies to it. Kids can see with their own eyes that three candies added to two candies equals five total candies in the bag. This kind of learning doesn't just stop in the classroom. Many students would keep practicing that math lesson at home with or without a formal homework assignment.

Dramatic play promotes the use of speaking and listening skills. When children take part in this type of play, they practice words they have heard others say, and realize that they must listen to what other “players” say in order to be able to respond in an appropriate fashion.

It also teaches them to choose their words wisely so that others will understand exactly what it is they are trying to communicate.

Physical Development 
The child learns fine finger dexterity,various grips like holding pencils, buttoning the dolls dress, screwing bolts and nuts, hammering rubber nails.

 It also improves gross motor development through climbing, jumping, driving the car or moving the wheelbarrow during farm play.

Bonding time and free play fun time for the kids
I have not seen a kid who does not like free play and pretend play creates great avenues and opportunities for family and teachers to bond with their kids.

The various benefits are magnified when older adults join in pretend play but major control should be given to the child so as not to lose interest.

Pretend play is an excellent way of building of creativity, insight, and maturity for young children. Toys that come to life through the imaginations of young children develop internal and external skills. As children increase the amount of time and energy they spend in the world of make-believe, they become more well-rounded. A built in ‘pretend play recess’ during school time should be advocated.

Parents should invest in pretend play materials and create time too for pretend play at home....or else....

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Thursday, November 27, 2014


Last Saturday was awesome. I attended a networking and Parenting seminar organized by the "Internet mum" and founder of LagosMums, Mrs Yetty Williams.

The theme of the seminar ‘Raising a Global Citizen’.

The speakers were all career women and dedicated mums. It was really inspiring to hear all of them talk about the challenges of juggling their various careers with parenting and still raising or trying to raise God fearing, focused and well mannered children.

The moderator of the event was Mrs Ononuju Irukwu, a Personal Wealth Consultant and the Managing Director of Chapel Hill Denham Management Limited in Lagos. 

She added fun and laughter to her great performance as a moderator [P.S: being a part-time MC is not a bad idea o]

The speakers were ; Mrs Ifeoma Idigbe, a mum to 2 adult children and a business analyst with over 30 years in professional banking, general management and business consulting.
She talked on our roles as parents,what values to instill and how to instill these values.

Mrs Catherine Bickersteth, a mum to two grown up daughters and also the co-director of strategic Educational Advisory Services Ltd and very passionate and involved in various charities in Nigeria.
I really like her soft spoken soothing voice. She gave us tips on educating an all-rounded and global child.

Mrs Oluwatosin Praise Fowowe, a young mom to 2 children, a blogger and the manager of the Center for Sex Education and Family Life, gave us various scenarios of issues that could come up when you don’t monitor what your child is doing on the internet. 
She also backed up these scenarios with real stories of Kidnap, internet stalking, porn and Sexuality preferences. It was really enlightening. 
She also listed out some softwares that we could use to monitor the activities of our children on the internet, they included Karpersky parenting, Norton security (Norton family) among others. 
(Thanks Mrs Fowowe, I'll be passing the word around).


Mrs Abiola Okubanjo, a serial entrepreneur with 3 kids. [Thanks a lot, the shea butter oil is great for massages] She talked about how possible it was, to be a super mom and still have thriving career. It all depends on how resourceful you are, planning, managing time and planning constructive activites especially when you're not there; screening the people you leave your child, using Skype, calls and chatting to keep tabs on them.

Then came the question and answer segment where lots of women raised issues faced with their children especially tantrums. The experienced speakers and also mums in the audience gave tips on handling tantrums; 
Number 1 tip: Do not give attention to the child.
#2. Allow the tantrums to die down without any reaction then quietly ask the child what he or she wants.
#3. Prompt the child to ask as politely as possible then give him/her whatever he/she wants OR firmly and lovingly say "No" while providing alternatives.

The trends in tipping or bribing teachers was also raised.

We also got some words of wisdom from the mother-in-law of the +LagosMums founder, Mrs Yetty Williams and her very supportive husband. He also gave a vote of thanks to all of us who came for the event.

We ended with a raffle draw and cool gift bags for everybody who came.

Parenting and networking forums like this are very important because you not only learn a lot, you also discover that your problems are not new or unique, there are other people out there dealing with the same issues and at an event like this, you're bound to meet people who have overcome those problems who are are more than happy to share with you how they did it and help you out. 

Everybody needs a support group and I believe that many of us who were present on the 22nd of November, 2014, made new friends and hopefully people who will be part of our support group in the future. I know I did.

For a maiden event, LagosMums, her sponsors and all the wonderful people who put heads together to make it a success, did very well. It was well organized and everything was done on time and it ended in time too but then again...time flies when you are having fun. 

I'd like to say thank you again to LagosMums for a wonderful event. I hope to attend more of them soon.

Image courtesy: Lagos Mums [Please like her page on Facebook],, @tosinpraise [],,, 
Bukky Shaba:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The School and the Parents...

Recently, a parent called and scheduled a meeting with the school and therapists working with the child. I was really happy- wow! she is really putting her child first this time.
You can imagine my surprise when the meeting turned out to NOT to be a meeting but a written down dictation on what she expects her son to be doing now.

"I want him placed in basic three instead of two."
"No more practical work for him. Move totally to abstract."
"Stop all one-on-one therapy time. He should do full time like his mates."
"No more cutting of his work load. Give him the full load like his mates."

This is a boy who has almost succeeded in coming out of the spectrum but is still having challenges with abstract teachings; he also had a penchant for giving up on a task easily (still working on that) and his mum is too busy to hear any progress report.

I asked her why the sudden meeting and dictates and she replied
“his mates are in basic 4 now” he is taking too long ah!"
I gently reminded her that when we started she had told us that if only he could just communicate his needs and write that she would be okay, now she was dictating the pace. She replied,

 "....eeeehn…I thank God ..but he should do fast and join  his mates."

I told her of the challenges we were facing, the teacher also told her about the IEP we had already drawn up; also that if she would patiently go through it with us, she would see that it suited him well.
She vehemently refused stating that this was what she wanted, that her hubby and a friend discussed it yesterday and they had already come to a decision.

Unfortunately, this is the trend in schools; some parents dictate what is to be taught, styles of teaching  and punitive measures or if possible, no punitive measures whether it conforms to the school style or not and then giving the school an ultimatum..."do it my way or I withdraw my child” and you see schools doing their bidding to avoid losing their students.

All this dancing to the whims of parents and not focusing on enhancing the child's abilities.

The resultant effect?
Lack of disciplinary measures
The schools lose their integrity.

Image courtesy:,,, ,

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Choosing a school for your special child

Impressive right? well, as we say in Nigeria, "No be by dat wan abeg..." There are a lot of things to consider when picking a school for your child.

In Nigeria, children with special needs can be enrolled in a main stream class with additional supports, in a support class in the school, in a special school or center affiliates. Parents need to explore each option and decide on what they feel is most appropriate.

Guide and Checklist for Choosing a School.

As more and more people are agitating for inclusive education for special needs kids. It is imperative for parents to look for mainstream schools with good special education programs.

There are a lot of schools that seem to be offering these services but are they effective?

A parent lamented on the fact that her son has really regressed after a term in a mainstream school in Nigeria. A therapist complained about the way the teachers and cleaning staff ignored the child and expected her to see to the child’s needs. The child, a 3 year old with budding cognitive abilities who just started gaining speech was placed in the toddlers unit. It was with reluctance, after several meetings that she was then moved to a higher class.

Parents should consider the following tips and checklists in choosing a school for their kids.
Plan as early as possible in developing checklists of what you expect of a school for your child.
Visit websites of schools and ask parents with Special needs their opinion on schools.
Visit each school’s open day and talk to the principal of the school.

 School Culture and Inclusion
• Does the school culture fit with your child?
• Did the principal and staff seem genuinely supportive?
• Does the school philosophy specifically acknowledge different abilities and learning styles?
• Do you feel that the school staff will understand your child’s needs?
• Are there signs of inclusion?
• What programs are in place to effectively deal with bullying
• How many children with disabilities (or receiving additional funding) does the school currently
• Is the parent community supportive and involved?

 Class Size and Teaching strategies
 Are your child’s capabilities, strengths and challenges understood?

• Is there one staff member who has overall responsibility for the children with special needs        (e.g. Learning Support Teacher) and do they allow for parents to hire a shadow special education therapist to be with the child?

• Does the school have access to therapists (e.g. occupational therapist, speech therapist etc)?
• Do staff members undertake professional development in disability?
• What is the student to teacher ratio for all classes?

Is there a quiet place for one on one therapy follow-up session with his personal therapist or to calm the child down if he/she experiences sensory overload or melt downs?

Is there a general consensus by the parents and the child’s educational team to use the IEP
  [an individualized plan] for the child?

Do you think the IEP addresses the child’s challenges and will bring a positive outcome?
Are there Therapy materials in carrying out the IEP of the child?

What type of Assessment is being done?
Is it too structured or is it flexible enough to take into cognizance, the child’s challenges and progress attained?

Additional Services

Does the school have an introductory program to assist children transitioning into the school or an organized transition program for children moving from primary to secondary?
• How structured (prescriptive or open-ended) is the curriculum? Is there enough flexibility? How does the school support those students needing additional support in transport etc?
• What does the curriculum offer beyond the statutory subjects? Co-curricular activities?

• Does the school offer clubs, interest groups, etc?
• Do all students have access to specialist facilities (e.g. library, art rooms, science and technology laboratories, etc)?


What are the strategies in narrowing it down to the child so that learning takes place?

Social Skills and Inclusion.
Are the school grounds safe and secure?
What other signs of inclusion do you see?
Are there structured activities at lunch time and break time to encourage social skills and inclusion?

.........No comment.........

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