Pretend play is the most complex form of play and is an essential building block for healthy childhood and brain development.
It can assist children to regulate emotion, boost creativity, improve problem solving skills, engage in abstract thought, develop language skills and build social confidence.
Pretend play begins to develop when a child is around two years old. You may see children pretending to give a drink out of a cup to their doll or using a block as a phone, placing it to their ear the way adults do. Children often imitate what they have seen or heard from their lives through pretend play. For example, going to the doctors, playing shops, dress ups, trains or cars. While it comes naturally for most children, for some it is more difficult to initiate imaginative play.
Pretend play lays the foundation for pre-literacy, such as reading and writing. It allows children to comprehend stories and narratives, giving them the confidence to express themselves. By learning through play, they’ll also get to practice life-long, valuable skills such as healthy sharing, negotiating, cooperation and collaboration. Children who have complex levels of pretend play are more able to positively interact with their peers, especially when working through conflict.
Pretend play helps children practice strategies when they are upset or angry too. As children play, they may focus on emotions – for example, making a teddy really sad because it hurt himself, the child may create crying noises or they may comfort the Teddy. Raising children to engage in daily pretend play will have a higher ability to regulate their emotions compared to children who engage in less pretend play.