Lately, Pretend Play has been once again gaining respect in the education department. I first read an NPR article titled Old Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills that I had seen referenced over on the Growinginpeace blog. It discusses how kids have become less self-regulated over the years--that essentially means they don't learn how to control themselves anymore--in part because they aren't engaging in pretend play. The study showed that pretend play allows children to act out social roles, and let them practice reacting in certain situations. (Those are my words; the conclusion I have come to after reading lots of information.) By the way, self-regulation is a huge predictor of how well the child will later do in school (and in life situations I might add). I'd like to write a nice long post with all my thoughts on it, but for now I'll cut to the Bright Idea part. I trust you will go read this short article to get a better idea of the importance of this activity.
To help our home engage in pretend play on a regular basis I decided to make two lists: a list of people (occupations), and a list of places. We then randomly choose one from each list and act it out. You can't imagine what fun it is to pretend you are a Zoo Keeper in a Library, or dentist on the moon, or a pirate at his birthday party. It keeps your child's interest and tests their ability to think through a new situation and what needs to change. And it's just plain fun.
If you would like to get a copy of my list, you can email me at LaughLearnLoveBlog@gmail.com (the L words are in alphabetical order if you forget). But be patient as I might not get around to sending it until next week.
Another pretend play option is to act out stories you read regularly; fairy tales are the perfect example. If you can get a few different versions of a story, that helps too. It teaches your child how to adapt to the changes in detail without altering the essential storyline.
More Reading on Pretend Play:
NPR: Creative Play Makes for Kids in Control
Playing to Learn
Self-Regulation in the Early Childhood Classroom
Tools of the Mind: Info for Parents and Playgroup Ideas
Tools of the Mind and Self-Regulation Learning: Does it Work?