We all know how much our little ones love to engage in pretend play. Whether they are fighting a mythical dragon in the garden or hosting a magnificent tea party for their toys, nothing can beat the imaginative joy of childhood.
You may be wondering what the benefits of pretend play are and how you can encourage your child to get the most out of their play sessions. In this blog post, we will give you some top tips and suggest some of our excellent toys that will help your little ones to engage in high-quality pretend play.
What is pretend play?
Pretend play, more commonly known as 'make believe' can be defined as a form of play that typically involves role-play where children use objects and pretend they are something else. One of the most common examples of this is using a banana as a telephone!
Children may also refer to invisible objects, for example, they may blow on the hot tea in their teacups to cool it down or point out the snarling dragon in the garden I previously mentioned. When children play pretend they are playing ‘as if’ something or someone is real.
How is pretend play beneficial?
Research has shown that engaging in pretend play, especially with other children, may assist your childs development in several key areas. These include:
- Social and linguistic development - Most pretend play involves the use of language and takes place in social contexts, thus, lends itself to the development of social and linguistic skills. The majority of interactions which take place are largely improvised or taken from casual observations they have made which feature the adults in their life. These unstructured social interactions offer the perfect opportunity for your child to learn key social skills such as cooperation, self-control, and assertiveness.
- Problem-solving skills - Through engaging in creative play your little one is learning to solve problems and think flexibly. When your child acts out different scenarios they may encounter problems, real or imagined, which they have to learn to solve themselves. The innovative problem-solving skills that children pick up whilst playing can help lead to improved academic performance as well as increased confidence and motivation.
- Creative thinking skills - Using imagination in play is a brilliant way to foster burgeoning creativity skills. Pretend play provides your child with a chance to develop their creative thinking abilities as they are able to use their object substitution skills to represent other objects, create their own play worlds, and enact different themes, either by themselves or with others.
What can I do to encourage pretend play?
There are several ways to enable your child to engage in high-quality pretend play and enter the world of make-believe. If your child doesn't know how to pretend yet or is rather nervous and shy then you may need to step in and start off the play. Choose one of their favourite toys and do one simple action yourself that your child can then mimick. Ask them questions about what you are doing and get them to add their own ideas into the fictional world you are creating together.
Make your child's pretend play session more tangible by playing dress-up or creating forts out of pillows and blankets. This will help your little one more clearly picture the world they are creating and will give them some real-world prompts to refer to. There are also lots of toys available to help your little ones get the most out of their pretend play sessions. Whether they are cooking up a storm in a play kitchen or checking their favourite stuffed teddy's heart with a wooden stethoscope, our range of superb role-playing toys will let your child be whoever they want to be.
Here are just a few of our favourite toys for encouraging pretend play:
Busy builders will love this Wooden Tool Box from Le Toy Van. This toy tool set comes complete with eleven accessories including a fabric bag, pliers, a screwdriver, a plank of wood with two holes, two nails, a bolt, a screw, wood glue and a hammer.
The gender-neutral colour scheme encourages the toy to be shared between siblings and friends, extending toys usage. This toy set promotes pretend play allowing children to be creative while improving their hand-eye coordination skills.
The Moulin Roty Doctor's Medical Bag comes in a beautifully designed case and includes all the accessories that a little Doctor will need! A great way to encourage role play for all those budding doctors and nurses!
This children's doctors kit includes a stethoscope, a wooden thermometer, a health book, a wooden tube of cream, a bandage, a wooden reflex hammer, a wooden syringe and a wooden box of throat pastilles.
A beautiful shop on one side and theatre on the other. This space-saving pretend play toy is ideal for shared role play games and will happily accommodate 2 children on either side.
The café doors can close at the end of play, and the double-sided printed red curtain can be lowered to close the shop. The illustrations give the product a retro-inspired storybook feel that will inspire creative storytelling.
The theatre has an acorn chalkboard on which to scribble the times of the play, as well as 2 delightful glove puppets, encouraging storytelling and language development.
Ideal for any little aspiring chef, the Wooden Happy Day Cooker Set from Janod includes a clock, spoons peg, metal sink, two rotating buttons and a LED cooktop that makes fun cooking sounds.
Just like a real kitchen, it features two dials with sound effects to turn on the two induction cookers, an oven and a cupboard with magnetic doors. This pretend play toy kitchen is a wonderful role-play toy that encourages interactive play and creative storytelling.
An extensive shopping set from Le Toy Van which includes a wooden basket and more than a dozen solid wood grocery items plus a fun barcode scanner and some barcodes stickers.
The illustrated grocery items include tuna can, butter, a baguette, cookies, sweet corn, ketchup, olive oil, spaghetti, chocolate and cereal. Great fun for pretend shopping, counting and language development.
The Emile and Olive role play set is a takeaway sandwich shop all made in wood. There are various meats, fish, cheese and salads which can be stacked between layers of bread and finished with an olive.
The beautifully decorated box is turned upside down to create a shop front and a display counter to show off the delicious looking sandwiches which can be invented with the various fillings available.