Creative Child

Pretend Play and Your Child’s Development

by Rebecca Eanes

Each night, I’d lie in bed with my two boys and we’d pretend we were on a rocket ship. Our destination was always the same – a castle owned by a certain superhero floating somewhere in space. However, the trip to the castle was always different and often involved monsters, aliens, treasures, peril, and triumph! Each night, we looked forward to the next fantasy adventure.


Play is an essential method of learning for children, and now researchers are identifying the values of pretend play as a vital component to their healthy, normal development. As if they are born knowing the benefits already, children love make-believe. They are masters at imitating mom, dad, teachers, ponies, butterflies, and everything in between. One has to only watch a child involved in imaginative play to see real skills at work.


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One important benefit of pretend play is the exercising of imagination which enhances cognitive flexibility and creativity. The ability to use imagination is what drives art and innovation. It’s an extremely important skill which will benefit the child for a lifetime. Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere!” Furthermore, the “theory of mind” concept, the understanding that other people have beliefs, thoughts, and perspectives that differ from our own, is closely related to imaginative play. Theory of mind helps children to get along with others and be able to see things from their point of view; an important social skill. Other social skills that are enhanced through pretend play are cooperation, sharing, turn taking, and teamwork.


Language skills are also enhanced by make-believe play, both the usage by widening vocabulary and the understanding of language and its power to influence others. Pretend play may also help kids to make the connection between written and spoken language. When other children are involved in the play, children learn how to verbally express their ideas and the important communication skills of listening to others!

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Pretend play offers kids the opportunity to learn problem-solving and conflict resolution skills – for example, when both children want to be the same character and they must work out a deal, or they must work together to determine how to defeat a foe and save the day. As they act out their scenarios and create their imaginary worlds, they must learn to think critically and carefully. They may need to make up rules, make decisions about roles, and overcome “problems” as in their made-up scenes.


Research shows that dramatic play helps children emotionally as well. Not only does it reduce stress and allow them to have fun, but it plays a very important role in allowing them to express both positive and

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