Bring your pretend play adventures to life with these handy tips!
There’s nothing more powerful than a child’s imagination… That's why pretend play is such an important part of your little one’s learning experience! Pretend play isn’t just about having loads of fun (although it’s certainly a perk). It’s also a helpful stepping stone for your child to develop essential thinking, language and social skills.
It’s often best to let your child steer the ship when it comes to pretend play. However, there are several ways you can get involved that will help them have more fun, develop life skills and bond with mum and dad at the same time! In this article, we share three handy tips to help you get more involved with your child’s pretend play — but first, let’s take a deeper dive into what pretend play actually is.
What is pretend play?
If your little one has ever used a shampoo bottle as a submarine or turned their spoon into an aeroplane, they’re already showing an interest in pretend play. Essentially, pretend play is your child’s way of using toys and household items to explore the world using their imagination.
There’s also an element of role-playing involved as children often pretend to be pilots, ship captains, chefs or firefighters in fun make-believe scenarios!
Pretend play generally begins at around 18 months, developing your child’s creativity and building a whole range of valuable skills including:
Thinking skills. Pretend play develops both creative and cognitive thinking skills. It also helps your child understand the meaning of different objects and situations — for example, using a mop as a firehose means your child understands what a firefighter is, how fires are put out and why fire is dangerous in the first place!
Children often play with invisible items or pretend objects are living, breathing creatures. They may even construct stories with sequential narratives (beginning, middle and end) or problems that need to be solved.
Language skills. Pretend play is a great way for your child to learn how language works and how communication changes in different situations. For example, your child will start to understand that role-playing as a police officer involves a different style of thinking than role-playing as a salesman. They may adopt a different tone or stance and use words that fit each role differently. This helps your child understand how context affects language.
- Social skills. Through role-playing and scenario building, your child will start to understand how it feels to embody different social roles. This exposes your child to different points of view and can help them develop empathy for others. Plus, adding partners to roleplaying scenarios teaches them to share their ideas and think creatively with others.
Pretend play can help your little dreamers flourish in preschool and kindergarten by introducing these skills early on. It will also show them how to have lots of fun with their new playmates!
Read on for our three essential tips to get more involved with your child’s pretend play.
#1. Start with everyday items
A common part of pretend play is assigning attributes to inanimate objects — for example, a toy kettle being hot or their favourite doll feeling happy. If your child is doing this, it shows that their thinking skills are developing!
Using familiar items is a great way to develop your child’s pretend play skills. A 2014 study from the Journal of Early Childhood found that household items like kitchen and baking sets are great for pretend play as they give your child a recognisable starting point for acting out everyday scenarios.
We recommend introducing your child to toys and props based on household items to get their imaginations going. Your child can pretend they’re the world’s next top chef with a toy wooden chopping board or blender set with fruit.
Get more involved by cooking an imaginary meal together with a mixing bowl baking set — you can even team up with a matching set of toddler aprons and parent aprons, too!
#2. Push their imaginations
You might have heard the phrase “Yes, and?” used for improvisation in comedy but it’s also a useful way to advance your child’s pretend play skills.
For example, if your child has created a story or fairytale, give them small prompts that encourage them to flesh out the narrative, characters and setting. Simple cues like “what happens next?” or “how did they do that?” give your child a gentle nudge to keep exploring their scenario and will develop their thinking skills.
#3. Encourage teamwork
Adding a partner to pretend play helps your child share their ideas and creativity with others. It can also help develop their social skills, as roles can be shared and partners can use creative thinking to solve problems in their scenarios.
Try getting your pretend play partners to come up with a fairytale. You can give them a cooking or baking set and see if they start assigning tasks and roles to create an imaginative baking feast!
If your child isn’t ready for group activities, mum and dad can step in as their pretend play partners. This is an easy way to give small prompts, introduce them to teamwork and develop their social skills.
Find the perfect pretend play toys online at My Happy Helpers!
At My Happy Helpers, our toys give your child the best start in life. We supply a huge range of high-quality, durable and affordable toys that are perfect for pretend play!
Try starting with an exciting baking set like the Honeybake Mixer Set which comes with a detachable bowl and fun ingredients including flour, sugar, an egg and a rolling pin — plus, this set is ethically made using sustainable wood and non-toxic paint. We provide flexible payment options including Afterpay and Zippay — plus, spend over $199 and we’ll bump up your order to free shipping!
Bring your child’s pretend play adventures to life with My Happy Helpers