Make Believe Play

08 January 2019

Make Believe Play:

How can mums jump into the world of children’s make believe play to explore their endless imaginations? Role-play comes naturally to kids. It is a kind of play that has continued across generations. Role-play helps develop valuable life skills such as emotional literacy, language development, critical thinking, and problem solving, contributing to your child’s independence, self-esteem, and collaboration with peers.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” (Albert Einstein) Have you or your children ever been told to learn the following equation?
Play + social interactions + some dramatic play + time = imagination.

The key part of this rather simple equation is…time for play, time for social interactions, and importantly, time for a lot of dramatic play! All this adds up to a whole lot of imagination. This all looks as simple as Einstein’s E = mc2 but it is as complex as relativity. Well…it’s all relative really!

Allowing children to engage in play, especially pretend play cannot be that difficult. Teaching children all kinds of life skills to be able to adapt to the complex world they live in happens most naturally through pretend play. While play itself has all the developmental advantages, pretend play is a more complex level of play.

First, let us talk about the advantages of pretend play in particular. It is the tool used to help develop language, symbolism, abstract thinking, cognitive skills and of course, the imagination! Words start representing or symbolizing thoughts and ideas and pretend play strengthens the base of the language skills, learning from others, give and take, collaboration, and developing empathy.

So mums – what can you do to encourage pretend play that really doesn’t require any fancy purchases and guarantees 100% fun? This is probably something you already do, but this article should draw your attention to the importance of what you already do, so you can do it even more creatively!

Always be face to face with your child when you play: Wherever that may be, it helps build focus and attention, a strong connection and clear view of what you are saying, gesturing, and acting. Throughout this process, you can also observe your child. What are their interests? What roles are they taking on? How does this enhance their language? Their critical thinking? Make sure that you follow along with their interests and be as spontaneous and creative. Your child is your biggest fan. Just let your own imagination take its course because with the wise words of Dr. Seuss: “Think left, and think right, think high and think low, oh the things you can think up if only you try”

Take the initiative if needed:Sometimes children don’t really know how to pretend play so you need to take the initiative and pretend to be character or a toy and act something out. For example: pretend to have an afternoon cup of tea and crumpets with ‘my fair lady and feathers on hats’ Invite your child over to have a cuppa’ tea. Be a pirate aaaaaargh on a pirate ship; or a superhero! When they take on the role, imitate their actions to show them you are engaged, you are interested, and you’re ready for that world of imagination! And please do not be preoccupied with something else while your child is making great efforts to play pretend. They have a lot of things to say and act.

Materials required for pretend play: It’s easy really. Just a little bit of dress up – and don’t be surprised if your child wants to dress like you or their dad or a certain character/person whom they can relate to.

The greatest thing about pretend play is that with each attempt to take on a role, children become more and more familiarized with the role, and want to try out different ways of playing it out. So if they choose to be the same character over and over again, let them be! And get into it! Don’t be a bystander – be engaged. When you engage in the play, you are naturally providing your child with opportunities to take turns, interact, engage in back and forth conversation and maintain good contact and rich interactions.

Present new ideas but do not impose or overwhelm your child with too many/much newness ideas/characters. Simply keep the stories relevant so while you’re not adding too much newness to the pretend play, connect to stories they can relate to e.g. if you went to the beach, this can spark a whole new play theme that is new but also familiar.

And books? Have you ever thought of books? This is one great opportunity for you to be animated, creative, and imaginative. They can incorporate their actual experiences into their pretend play.

Mamas, here’s a little ‘food for play’. I must be entirely honest when saying this, but here it goes… I have often heard people talking about reaching deep into YOUR “inner child”. It almost sounds like a cliché statement and what does that mean anyway? Well truer words couldn’t be said. If you are really into it, you will take your child’s lead and help build on it, both for you and your child. Your own inner child will use your imagination, connect with your child and encourage their critical thinking skills.


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