Five Ways to Reap the Benefits of Pretend Play
Teaching kids to read is an important milestone for many parents. And while raising a reader may appear to be a rather daunting task, the key is actually to have fun – and lots of it! This advice follows recent studies that have touted the many benefits of pretend play, including supporting early childhood development and early literacy skills.
Pretend play, or imaginary play, refers to a type of play where children accept and assign roles, and then act them out.
It provides a context for language and helps children learn how to re‑enact stories and structure their play. By participating in pretend play they learn how to connect spoken language with the written word – an important skill that will help them to read later on.
Keep reading to discover how to reap the benefits of pretend play and incorporate them into your child's routine today.
Experience the benefits of pretend play incorporating simple ideas
To realise the benefits of pretend play such as early childhood development and early literacy skills, it’s important to know how to encourage the right kind of play. Things like incorporating print, acting out stories and using symbols can all help to stimulate your child’s imagination and encourage pretend play – don’t forget to add a dash of creativity and a pinch of fun!
1. Use functional print to inspire play
Items like newspapers, menus, signs, coupons, or labelled items are all considered functional print. By surrounding your child with items like these during pretend play, you can create an environment in which your child can interact with print as adults do. Your child will see how texts are used in a variety of different ways. One study shows that classrooms rich in functional print material inspired more literacy‑focused pretend play, which resulted in children achieving higher literacy levels.
2. Act out stories
Encourage your child to act out a story in the right order and take on different roles. When they act out or retell stories you've read together, they're demonstrating and enhancing their comprehension skills. This will help them gain an understanding of narrative structure, and consider how different characters have different personalities and motivations.
3. Complement pretend play with books
Does your child like to pretend to be a doctor, a firefighter, a dancer, or a dinosaur? Observe what they like to do in pretend play. This will give you insight into their interests, helping you choose books that not only capture their attention but also their imagination, equipping them with more knowledge, vocabulary, and material to use in pretend play.
4. Use symbols to enhance play
During pretend play, a doorstop could become a slithering snake. A slip of paper could become money. By assigning a purpose to different props, your child will develop an understanding of symbols and create opportunities to use other symbols, such as letters and numbers. As they get older, provide writing materials like pencils, crayons, and paper to help them create their own symbols to which they can assign meaning.
5. Have fun with role‑playing
Role‑play scenarios involving different characters can introduce new related vocabulary words and encourage your child to use expressive language. For a fun and powerful way to expand your child's vocabulary and encourage their language development, try to include as many details as possible. For example, if you pretend to be a teacher, include as many related words you can think of (e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading).
To reap the benefits of pretend play, the most important thing to remember is to have fun. Getting involved in the process and encouraging creative thinking will help motivate your child to stay engaged, curious and inventive – enabling them to reap a wealth of educational benefits in the process.
For play-inspired ideas to try at home, check out:
Reading Game for Kids – Fun Reading Games for Children to Play at Home
Phonics Games and Activities to Help Your Child Learn to Read
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