We all remember the fun days playing with our friends when we were younger. Whether it was playing "House" or "School" or even being a Chef in a fancy restaurant. What we didn't realize at this young age while having fun, is that pretend play boasts important benefits for a child's development! The beloved Mr. Rogers said, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play IS serious learning."
Sometimes, with the fast-pace of our lives these days, it can mean that children don't have the time to play as often. However, it is so important to make time for this play for your child. Here are some reasons why:
It builds empathy. Through imaginary play, children try on different roles and view their worlds through a different lens. This expands their world-views and provides the opportunity to think about how others experience the world. It also helps kids slow down and listen to the ideas of their peers, consider their feelings about their role in the play scenario, and work together to make sure each player is having fun.
Kids practice social interaction skills. Group play is all about working together toward a common goal: fun. When kids play together, they learn how to work through conflict, negotiate, delegate, listen, and take turns. They learn to work together and care for each other so they can continue to have fun as a group.
Kids develop complex, higher order thinking skills. Imaginary play, believe it or not, requires thought and planning. It might seem whimsical to a parent watching from afar, but it is anything but that to the kids involved in the play. Pretend play involves thinking strategies, communication, and social skills. Kids spend time planning the play theme, dividing up tasks, negotiating roles, transferring knowledge from one situation to another, balancing their own ideas with their friends, and developing an action plan!
Kids build connections. Engaging in imaginary play builds positive connections. Kids learn to tune into the emotions of others and build friendships and relationships. This also helps protect against stress and reminds kids that they have supportive people in their lives.
Whenever possible, accept the invitation to play with your child. When you as parents take the time to play and live in their worlds, we should our kids that we are there for them. The more parents support play at home, the more kids engage in it and the longer they use it.
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