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Superheroes and Princesses: Benefits of Pretend Play

July 9, 2019, Author: Tamra Cater

benefits of pretend play

Where can you watch a sword fight between 2 knights? Or a princess being pulled in her carriage? Well, it could be in your own backyard…

And it’s just pretend play! And pretend play has a wide variety of benefits for children that include the enhancement of social skills and language. So, what is pretend play, and when does it start?

What is Pretend Play and When Does it Start?

According to one article, pretend play is “a form of symbolic play where children use objects, actions, or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas using their imagination to assign roles to inanimate objects or people.”

Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, theorized that pretend play starts in the second year of life. As for why he thought this, it was because of symbolic thinking. Children, during this time, can symbolize objects through the use of drawings and words. And therefore, pretend play is largely based on this ability to symbolize.

What is the Progression of Pretend Play?

  • At 12-13 months, children pretend that they are performing familiar activities. This can be eating or sleeping. For example, my daughter and I would pretend to sleep. Alot… Not that I minded! Children also tend to use toys that look realistic such as a toy fork.
  • At 15-20 months, children shift their focus away from themselves when they play. For example, a child may pretend feed her doll or “put her to bed.” They also may make a toy airplane “fly.”
  • At 30 months, children start to give the object more of an active role. For instance, a child might pretend that the doll is feeding itself. Children may also start to use less realistic objects in their play. For example, the child may use a block as a phone rather than a real phone.

What are the Benefits of Pretend Play?

1.The quality of pretend play has implications for later development (such as behavior). For example, those who show violent pretend play at an early age are less likely to be empathetic towards other children.

As another example, children who show more elaborate pretend play are more likely to do well in school later on.

2.Pretend play also benefits social skills. According to one article, children that engage in pretend play are experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. They also learn to take turns, cooperate, and problem solve with others. Children also learn to “step into another person’s shoes,” which helps develop empathy (being able to feel what others’ feel).

3.Children further develop their language skills. As you listen to your children play, you may realize that your children are saying words you might not have heard before! For example, children may use words that they are not normally exposed to everyday such as sword or castle.Children may also imitate some words and phrases that you say!

Pretend play is generally good practice for listening to others, practicing words and conversations, and what is being communicated through body language.

4.Pretend play helps nurture higher level thinking, as well as one’s imagination. In another one of my blog posts, it was suggested that play can help with problem solving. This can be particularly the case in pretend play. For example, if a child wants to “build a princess castle,” they may have to think about what materials to use in order to do that. It could be a cardboard box and lots of markers to color on it! It may also involve working out a story line with another person or character- How do they decide who is going to be the cop or the robber?

Children also be anything and do anything when it comes to pretend play! For instance, they can pretend to be a superhero with magic powers!

How Do You Encourage Pretend Play?

1. Try dress-up clothes. 

benefits of pretend play

Little Adventures has lots of dress up clothes for both girls and boys.  The material for their costumes are soft, comfortable, as well as machine washable (even multiple washings)! In addition, these clothes are easy to get on and off, so kids don’t have to worry about lots of buttons and zippers if they want to change in and out of costumes. The company also has a guarantee that if you don’t like what you got, that they will replace it.

Here, children can take on many different roles and be whatever they want!

2. Interactive Vet Clinic and Cage

benefits of pretend play

My daughter has one of these, and she loves playing with it! This toy can help develop empathy, as well as social skills. In addition, children may have a better understanding of some of the things that at an “animal doctor” does.

3. Play Kitchen

benefits of pretend play

When you place a pot on the stove, you will hear what sounds like water bubbling! So, this kitchen set has realistic sounds and lights to go along with it. Your kids can play restaurant, take orders, and do the cooking for a change! 🙂

4.Housekeeping Set

This toy can help your child “play house” and model independence. In addition, these toys can help develop coordination and fine-motor skills. My daughter likes to help me clean anyways, so I may need to grab this set for her!

5. Toolset

benefits of pretend play

This is a 19 piece toolset, and the pieces are very durable. The tools come in a carrying case that can be easily transported on trips or vacations. Children like to model their parents, so with this set, they are able to hammer a nail or twist a screw just like you do!

6.Fisher-Price Medical Kit

This has great reviews on Amazon! There are 7 pieces such as a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, thermometer, etc. The button on the thermometer can be pressed, so it goes from sick to well. My daughter loves playing doctor, as she has a set just like this. Definitely a fun idea for pretend play!

7. Melissa & Doug School Time! Classroom Play Set

I love anything we ever got from Melissa and Doug. This is a great set and has great reviews on Amazon! The set even includes drop-down teacher and student desks. It also comes with over 150 accessories such as stickers, blocks, a bell and timer, lesson plan guide, a storybook, as well as 2 reusable double-sided boards and 2 dry-erase markers. So, there’s plenty of opportunities for pretend play and fun for your kids!

8.Toy Shopping Cart and Play Food for Grocery Shopping

benefits of pretend playbenefits of pretend play

Both of these items are best-sellers! The food comes from Melissa and Doug, so it should be very durable. Thus, children can spend a lot of time playing grocery shopping!

Here’s a free download of a grocery list that your kids can use while playing!

benefits of pretend play

Final Thoughts

Pretend play has numerous benefits such as enhancing language, social skills, as well as one’s imagination. Play, in and of itself, is so important for kids. There are many ways to encourage it, and I hope these ideas were helpful to you!

If you like the post, please share it! 

 

 

Benefits of Pretend Play

References

Pretend Play. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.pgpedia.com/p/pretend-play

Rathus, S. A. (2017). Children: Voyages in Development. (6th ed.). Cengage Learning: Boston.

The importance of pretend play. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/parents/kids-activities-and-printables/activities-for-kids/arts-and-craft-ideas/importance-pretend-play.html

 

comments (27)

  • avatar image
    Such an awesome post, the beauty of pretend play is how it triggers the greatest of imagination. No dream is too small or too big.

    Mansfield

    July 10, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks! I absolutely agree!

      Tamra Cater

      July 10, 2019 Reply
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      I used to pretend all the time. Nothing makes me happier than seeing kids play without technology.

      Jessica

      July 11, 2019 Reply
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        Me as well!

        Tamra Cater

        July 11, 2019 Reply
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      As an Elementary educator and mom, I can't agree with you more. Creativity differs drastically in those students who were/are allowed opportunities to be engage in pretend play.

      Kimberlie

      July 14, 2019 Reply
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    Great resource for anyone looking into the benefits of pretend play and how it can influence a child's development. I agree that being able to do this would theoretically help any child express themselves and start to figure out the world, which is definitely a good thing.

    Michael Anderson

    July 10, 2019 Reply
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    I love this! My sister and I had a few of these things when growing up and I think it did help us in our growth when we were younger.

    Jenn

    July 10, 2019 Reply
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      Thanks!

      Tamra Cater

      July 10, 2019 Reply
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    Super important! My kids still do this and they are 12 and 13! But it is so good for the imagination and gets them thinking outside the box.

    Wendy M Diestler

    July 11, 2019 Reply
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    Pretend plan is so important and helps kids learn important social skills. Pretend play is a great way for them to learn how to express themselves too. So many benefits, I encourage my kids to do this everyday. It helps spark their imagination and creativity too.

    Sandy

    July 11, 2019 Reply
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      It definitely helps them express themselves! Thanks for reading!

      Tamra Cater

      July 11, 2019 Reply
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    Pretend play is so much fun when we were kids and is a great activity to encourage to kids now. Their imagination and creativity are just in full force! Love watching how they develop their own stories and roles

    Mallie Miller

    July 11, 2019 Reply
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    I love to watch my twins engage in pretend play. They literally are caught up in their own little world of Doc Muffins or Hot Wheels. Thanks for sharing!

    Felicia Tucker

    July 11, 2019 Reply
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    My 3yo has been developing some pretty intricate story lines with his pretend play lately. It's quite entertaining :)

    Main Mom

    July 12, 2019 Reply
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      Mine is too! I love watching what she comes up with!

      Tamra Cater

      July 12, 2019 Reply
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    Great post! Pretend play should be encouraged and used to entice a child's imagination. Thank you for sharing.

    Hailey Miranda

    July 12, 2019 Reply
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    A play kitchen is a truly wonderful way to encourage pretend play, and even teach children a little something about the cooking world! My siblings and I had a beautiful wooden kitchen complete with wooden vegetables and knives. As one us grew out of it, another grew into it.

    Jaya

    July 13, 2019 Reply
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    I love this post! I used to love to pretend play ( I was a soldier, vet, artist or power ranger, thank you very much) and honestly don't think children get enough of it these days. At least not my nieces from what I see.

    Nyxie

    July 14, 2019 Reply
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      I did too! I agree. I think there's still a lot of screen use instead of pretend play or even other types of play.

      Tamra Cater

      July 14, 2019 Reply
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    Great post!! I remember studying Jean Piaget in college. Such a great influencer for child development.

    Rachael Kulesza

    July 14, 2019 Reply
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      Thank you! He definitely is!

      Tamra Cater

      July 14, 2019 Reply
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    Pretend play is so important - my boys have a variety of things like a kitchen, tools, hoover.. I've always encouraged imagination play because I know how important it was to me as a child. In fact I still like it, it's probably a good thing for adult mental health too, like colouring books! Be more child!! myanxiouslife.co.uk

    Jo | My Anxious Life

    July 14, 2019 Reply
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    I always loved pretend play when I was a kid. It is great that there are some benefits with pretend play - it helps the kid with becoming more creative. It also helps enhance their communication skills to the next level. Thanks for sharing! Nancy ♥ exquisitely.me

    Nancy

    July 14, 2019 Reply
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      I did too! Thanks for reading!

      Tamra Cater

      July 14, 2019 Reply
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    This is a great post with some wonderful ideas on encouraging pretend play. I especially love the toy shopping cart because it also helps teach how to walk at an earlier age, and later on works to encourage that pretend play :)

    Urwah Kamran

    July 14, 2019 Reply
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    Pretend play is so important! Our speech therapist encourages it for language development. I need to add some of these toys to our collection.

    Jessica Goodpaster

    July 14, 2019 Reply
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      It definitely is! And it is great for language development!

      Tamra Cater

      July 14, 2019 Reply