Children love to engage in pretend play. Given some empty boxes and some time, most children will transform these boxes to create new worlds and adventures. Parents love pretend play because children have fun. Speech-language pathologists love pretend play because children practice scripts, incorporate social skills and expand their creativity.
When children engage in pretend play, they often imitate real life scenarios like ordering at a restaurant, paying at the grocery store, or visiting the doctor’s office. When we go to those places in real life, we often engage in scripts or expected dialogue, routines and behaviors. For instance, when we go to the grocery store, the clerk may greet us, ask if we want paper or plastic bags, scan the items, ask for payment, give a receipt to the customer, then wish us a nice day. This scenario might not happen every single time, but some variation of it takes place. As adults, we might go to a new grocery store for the first time. Even though it might be our first visit, scripts give us an idea of what to expect.
A child often draws upon these real life exchanges and interactions to incorporate them when playing. While we wouldn’t go to a veterinarian’s office for a sick unicorn, if your child has been to the veterinarian for a sick pet, then s/he has a basic understanding of what a visit entails and can use this as a launching point for their pretend play.
When children are interacting with others, they are socializing. They are learning that they have to wait their turn to speak, use appropriate eye contact, work together and be part of a group. During pretend play, they can learn from others by watching what others do and imitate that behavior.
Pretend play allows your child to use toys and props in predicted or novel ways. During pretend play, they have the chance to grow and explore, because there is no wrong or right way to play when making things up.
To encourage pretend play, gather items in to one place like a box, old suitcase or a bin. Items can be from around your house, hand-me-downs or from rummage sales. Here are some ideas about what you might include:
Boxes – the bigger the better. Ask grocers or appliance stores for boxes.
Button down shirts
Encourage your child to create new worlds, hone social skills, learn scripts and enhance creativity through pretend play.
Jann Fujimoto, MS CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and owner of SpeechWorks LLC, a provider of on-site speech therapy in Delafield, Pewaukee, Hartland, Dousman, Watertown, Oconomowoc and Ixonia. SpeechWorks helps children become confident communicators and empowers parents to be advocates for their children.