Why Pretend Play and How to Facilitate

When did your child start picking up a remote control and pretend to talk through it?

Pretend play starts early and this is your child's link to the "adult world".  Through pretend play, your child picks up language skills and develops socio-emotional skills such as turn-taking, negotiation skills and problem solving. Pretend play also involves a whole lot of imagination and navigating through complex feelings and encourages empathy. 

It also helps provide the necessary exposure for potentially scary and confusing scenarios - say, your child is afraid of taking an injection. Playing doctor helps familiarise your child with clinical tools and environment. It is a safe way for children to build familiarity and they become more at ease.

Now that you know the benefits, here are 3 ways you can help to facilitate pretend play.

1) Prepare props according to theme: This is to provide a realistic and immersive experience. For example, if you are preparing your child for a visit to the clinic, work around this theme to provide clinical tools, an examination form, weighing machine, doctor's coat and some furry patients (soft toys). Other fun themes include: operating a restaurant, exploring the jungle (create a blanket fort), or Olympics Games, police and thief for more active children etc.

We like real world tools because children are given "respectful tools" that they can use to form the connection with the real world. These tools provide a greater sense of satisfaction and honours children as capable doctors, engineers, artists etc. The authenticity provides for rich discussion on real world applications - who uses them, what it's used for, and allows children to build clear and direct connections.

2) Join in the fun!: It's always more fun with mummy and/or daddy around. How many times has your child fed you imaginary food? If your child is new to pretend play, start off with familiar scenes. You can start off (say, "let's go on a neighbourhood walk. I see a supermarket. What do you see?"). Open-ended questions work best. If your child already has something in mind, let your child take the lead and see the world through his/her eyes.

3) Level up: After creating a real world, level up your child's play by incorporating literacy and numeracy skills. For example, for the doctor theme, you can get your child to record patients’ symptoms in an examination form, dispense medication and play cashier. We learn best in an authentic setting.

Pretend play as doctor and dentist with our ‘Little Doctors’ Box. Real world tools and props provided.

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