Whether you call it creative play, dramatic play, or just plain dress-up, pretend play encourages children’s curiosity while allowing them to learn from hypothetical experiences. As children grow they begin to imitate what they see in the world around them as well as concepts and things that they find interesting. This kind of play nurtures the imagination and encourages creativity in its simplest form.
As a child I truly believed that I was cat woman. Of course, I don’t remember any of this but unfortunately my entire family does. Even into adulthood they would retell stories of how I would leap from couch to couch, meowing as I went. As confusing as this probably looked to outsiders this was just my way of exploring my imagination. Later on when I was bit older I learned to make sense of the world around me through play. My mother was a paralegal and although I wasn’t sure what that meant I began to pretend that I was one as well. I would carry around an old brief case along with the television controller, which I used as my “business phone”. By imitating what I saw at home I was actually developing valuable social skills.
Creating an environment that encourages pretend play is really quite simple, as there are only three key elements to consider: props, clothes, and surroundings. Props can be anything from a big empty cardboard box to old bedding and cushions that your kids can use to build a fort. Many people believe that they need to constantly entertain their children or guide their play. This is not always the case Children have an abundance of creative energy and sometimes it’s best to take a step back and allow them to explore their curiosities without your intervention.
The beautiful thing about providing clothing for dress up is that it can be as simple as handing your little girl a pair of old heels. By collecting some thrift store finds and old hand-me-downs you can give your children costume options for role-playing. Hats and scarves do well when sparking the imagination but kids can be very inventive so just about anything you have will work. I recommend keeping a basket of dress up clothes in your playroom so that your children have the freedom to play with them whenever they’d like.
Your child’s surroundings definitely influence their creativity so making sure your home is inviting to the imagination is important. If you are not able to provide your child with a separate area for pretend play a corner of a room will work just fine. By pulling all of the chairs away from the dining room table and placing a sheet on top, you have provided your child with a playhouse! The outdoors are incredibly important for children for a number of reasons including pretend play. Children learn to connect with and appreciate nature while using it as the backdrop for their imagination.
Role-playing helps children understand and identify with the adult world. It is also a great tool that can help them develop important social, language, and emotional skills. By encouraging your child to use his or her imagination you are giving them a sturdy foundation for healthy growth and development. Kids don’t stay little forever, so allow them to play freely and explore their curiosities through pretending while they still can!