When you see your child busy pretending, you can be sure there's a whole lot of thinking going on! Pretend play is more than fun—it helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills and strengthens social and communication skills, as well. It lets your child "try on" endless new roles and new ways of looking at the world, which helps build empathy and imagination. And as that imagination develops, your child's interest and involvement in make-believe and pretend play will grow. Pretend play is a major developmental milestone!
How can you encourage pretend play? Here are some helpful tips for promoting pretend play with your child—feel free to add some of your own or try different variations:
- Provide a collection of dress-up props and pretend play toys for role play.
- Play a simplified game of charades together, where you take turns acting like something (e.g., car or animal) and guessing what it is.
- Look at clouds with your child and imagine what they resemble.
- Listen to music with your child and act out how it makes you feel (e.g., happy, sad, sleepy).
- Read lots of books together.
- Provide pretend play toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
- Make up "What happens next" stories with your child, building on each other's additions.
- Arrange play dates with other children to foster social and imaginative play.
- Play "Be the Alphabet" and take turns being things that begin with each letter (e.g., the letter "B"—buzz around like a bumblebee!).
- Know when to be your child's playmate and when to just sit back and enjoy.
Remember, you are your child's first and best playmate! Playing "Let's Pretend" together and doing pretend play activities like the ones mentioned are great ways to help your child grow—and to help the two of you grow closer.
Kathleen Alfano Ph.D., Former Director of Child Research at Fisher-Price®
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.