Pretend play is strongly linked to language, problem solving, social competence, understanding a social situation, and social and cognitive skills. Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.
That being said, what are the stages you can expect in pretend play?
- Between 18 and 24 months, many toddlers will begin to play their first “pretend” games by acting out everyday actions they’ve seen adults do — talking on the phone, putting on shoes, using keys to unlock a door.
- By 24 months, toddlers are more likely display signs of “symbolic thinking”. For example, one object (like a toy banana) can start to stand in for another (like a phone). At this age, your toddler may start to play with dolls as if they are “real:” feeding them, putting them to bed and giving them roles to act out. Similarly, toddlers may also enjoy to pretend various other actions such as pretending to be asleep or pretending to drive a car.
- Between age 2 and 3, toddlers typically start to demonstrate increasingly complex symbolic thinking. For example, a 2-year-old needs a toy baby bottle to look like more or less like a bottle, whereas a 3-year-old might use a shoe as her “bottle”. In other words, the imagination gets more elaborate.
- By 3 years old, your child’s pretend play is at its pique. This is the age of tea parties, construction sites, dinosaur battles, fairy castles and horsey rides.
- By age 4, your child’s imaginative play will include even more elaborate make-believe scenarios, with extended storylines and lots of character acting.
It is essential to your child’s development to encourage various pretend play activities and there are many companies that have developed costumes to assist you.
One example is Great Pretenders (www.greatpretenders.ca) – who have been designing and creating pretend play products that ignite and inspire imagination for over 25 years. Great Pretenders outfits are unique in that they are comfortable, size flexible and machine washable so they last long after the memories they make.
“At Great Pretenders we know that young children learn by imagining and doing. The process of pretending builds so many essential life skills. Children get to experiment with the social and emotional roles of life. They learn to verbalize their imaginative stories, to take turns with one another, to empathize with the feelings of others, and to solve problems – and in doing so, they develop their self confidence.” – Pat Willmot, President, Great Pretenders