The power of pretend play!

I remember how as a child I used to insist my mother to drape me a saree, so that I could have a proper backdrop for enacting the teacher’s role, in a pretend-play classroom setting. Momentarily though, I used to feel very happy to get transformed and feel like a teacher. Instantly though, the soul of a teacher would spread inside my small frame and I would feel in-charge. The resultant action of hitting the pillows, who were then my make-shift students, always managed to perk me up in my bad days!

Today when I see my four year old, enacting or rather simulating the “Finding Dory” situation of lost and found, with a few toy sea animals and a bucket of water, I feel thrilled to see him getting excited in all this pretend-play. He just tunes out all the background sounds, as he bellows the character’s sounds, making each toy, come alive, just right out of the movie. I can see Hank, the septopus, Nemo and Marlin (two odd colored toy fish), Dory (a semi-blue fish), Mr. Ray, a toy stingray and a shark whale (which is a shark in his case), called Destiny, all happily splashing in a bucket of water, which has a layer of sand with some cowrie shells to undergo the theme.

The feeling is sheer happiness! I couldn’t fathom my son enacting the pretend-play with such detailed props. He even decided to cut out one tentacle in his toy octopus, to qualify him as Hank, the septopus (since the real character had lost one in some freak accident)!

I guess that’s the power of pretend play. To imagine and create a wondrous parallel world of fantasy is what gives that rush of adrenalin. My son, gets to live so many lives, as sea animals, at that point of time, that he completely starts believing that he is no longer a small boy, but a fish, who has lost his home. He will think of ways to reach home and find his mommy and daddy, in his most innovative ways!

The level of creativity and imagination he puts into his pretend play is worth appreciating. While to many, it may look a wastage of time, but to me and thankfully, to some researchers, it’s a known fact that pretend-play has a strong role in pressing the right pulse points in the brain, which in turn is helpful in the emotional IQ of a child.

Just in case, the readers are wondering if I have started hallucinating or am suggesting you to hallucinate with your child, then actually you may, but let’s not call it “hallucinating”, rather call it “pretend-play”. And the below mentioned reasons might just be a few good ones, to spiral you into imagining and creating a world that helps you to have your own sense of euphoria!

  • Coming to terms with another character: – Right from our thoughts, to our confusions, wishes and even fears, all take us to a different level, especially when we are pretending to be something or someone else. Our ability to feel and behave like someone else, helps us to get a real sense of how it is to be like that someone else. This is what pumps up children and they learn to see the world upside down, sometimes literally!
  • Getting the power play right: – Pretend play comes with a child’s own set of rules. He initiates and leads the play, bending it as per his convenience. The thrill of having the steering wheel in his own hand is confidence boosting. My child can be “mommy” or “daddy” and set clear rules of watching lots of TV in his world of pretend play, without the need of consulting anybody! It’s a totally win-win game!
  • Gives a platform to fulfill those unfulfilled wishes: – Not every time, your child can win a match or meet a celebrity or go and travel the world alone, but in hid world of imaginative play, he is the boss. Pretend play give children the platform to meet all those desires, which they otherwise, cannot. In imagination, they can jump from 36th floor like a Spiderman and just swish back up, before touching the ground, or simply shoot up in the sky like a Superman! The sky is no limit in imagination. My brother used to go about happily returning me to the hospital, in his pretend plays, during his hey-days of imaginative pretend-play! He loved me even more, post those episodes, pretending I was a neighbor’s kid.
  • Children get to make sense of their social environ: – Like mentioned earlier, unless you enact as someone else, you will not understand or gain that someone else’s perspective. The power of empathizing, to be able to think from a different angle, to be able to perceive things differently, are all skills that pretend play develops in children. Role plays, no wonder are perfect, for teaching kids to understand different kinds of people or situations. Simulating a different environment is far more fulfilling in learning and grasping concepts rather than mere books or memorization.
  • You are always the master: – The thrill or having control gives every child a feeling of being the winner or being the master of the situation. This boosts a child’s morale, his self-esteem more than anything else.
  • Develops social skills: – While playing with other kids, children learn to behave in a certain way for pretend play. They know that unless they behave in a certain way, they won’t be able to get the play right! They develop their communication skills, negotiation skills, learn to share and much more, all in the name of having their “pretend play” perfect!
  • Emotional development happens in plenty of ways:- When children are acting out in a certain way, they learn to feel and see in a certain way, thereby understanding and emotionally connecting through their feelings to certain situations/characters. Their thinking skills, coupled with emotional development is getting a sure shot boost!
  • Physical development: When you see your child jumping from one chair to another, in an attempt to jump like Spiderman, don’t have a heart attack. Your child, as a Spiderman, will also learn to showcase a level of resilience and strength, post each fall, that otherwise might not be a possibility out of him! You see, he is learning to behave strong and so he will learn to gauge his own balance before and after performing the act!
  • A perfect way to refresh and restart: – Just letting them what they want to be, in their world of imagination, allows them to disconnect from the real world at times, and recharge their batteries. This is good because when they come back, they feel great to start!

These reasons are good enough to encourage children to pretend play.

The opportunity to play freely and without boundaries has its own thrill. It gives ample space for children to grow well. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers need a lot of free-time to indulge in this wondrous game of “pretend-play”. These kinds of play time, will make them more imaginative, creative, skillful, help them perform better in school and also develop a strong problem-solving approach.

Instead of planning routine activities for children, let them figure out their own ways of keeping themselves engaged and entertained. After all, a child who is capable of soothing himself with his own innovative devices will never have time for solitude in future. He will know of ways to keep himself occupied and thoroughly entertained. That is the power of imagination, the power of pretend play!



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