Remember making up stories of fighting dragons or playing princess. Remember deciding what the people in your stories said instead of copying what you heard in a recent movie or television show. It’s important your child has a chance to make things up and decide how things in his make-believe story will go.
Imaginative play is disappearing. Toys and technology that are available to our children in abundance are taking their place. Watching television, playing video games or taking lessons won’t give your child the skills of using his imagination. Playing make-believe increases his ability to control his emotions, resist impulses and be disciplined.
Make-believe makes kids practice private speech. This is talking to himself about what he is going to do and how he is going to do it. As parents, you can help your child think and talk to himself as he puts his emotions into words.
When you read a book that has imaginary characters in it, encourage him to participate by reading those specific parts. Encourage him to talk like the character would talk. He can walk like the character and pretend he is the character. All of this encourages a different kind of play.
Imagine the possibilities
You can make up cards with different imaginary characters from stories you have read together and give different characters to each child who has heard the story. Then encourage them to pretend they are going somewhere together.
Reward his creativity. Give him and anyone else playing a treat. Encourage his acting ability as he pretends and is creative.
Show him how you can pretend you are someone else. Then he can better know how to do it himself. If he has older siblings, have them show how they play make-believe.
When you bring in the mail together, pretend that a letter is from some person you make up. Play that person by making up what is in the letter.
If he has older siblings, have them show how they play make-believe. Sometimes they can show a younger sibling things you as a parent are more hesitant to do. Pretend play is an important part of every child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development and is something we should encourage.
Pretend play begins around the age of 2. The beginning stages are frequently the play you find your child doing with stuffed animals.
Look for your child to play pretend and encourage it. It is one of the positive things that comes from watching “Superman” and “Wonder Woman” or even “Lion King.”
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and former executive director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. For more information, call 360-681-2250.