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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