Why Experienced Parents Often Pretend Play With Their Kids

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As a parent, you may be ready to do anything it takes to ensure that your child grows up to be a happy and successful individual. You’ve probably thought about the best school to enroll them into, the best neighborhood to move to, thought of some extracurricular hobbies and classes they can take for overall development and mapped out a schedule to accommodate it all. But did you know that sometimes just playing with them will do the trick? That’s right, contrary to popular belief, your kids don’t need you to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on them. They just need you to be present and play with them in order to learn important life lessons and skills. Would you like to know the benefits of diving deep into your child’s imaginative world with them? Read on to know more!

1. How To Know When Your Child Is Engaging In Pretend Play

How To Know When Your Child Is Engaging In Pretend Play

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The second your child picks up a stick and starts waving it around like a wand, you know that they have magically transformed into a wizard in their mind and have teleported right into the world of Harry Potter. This is how you know that they are pretending while playing. You may not notice how often your child does this but children spend most of their time in pretend land during their formative years and that’s completely normal. They could be pretending to be a driver, building a rocket from old boxes, hosting a tea party with dolls. Every time your kid exhibits nonliteral behavior and does something for fun rather than for the sake of necessity, they are pretending while playing.

2. Pretend Play Can Help Avoid Behavioral Problems In The Future

Pretend Play Can Help Avoid Behavioral Problems In The Future

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Finally some good news for parents! New research has been found indicating that we can decrease the chances of kid’s behavioral problems in the future by pretend playing with them (1). How awesome is that! Mothers who didn’t have the chance to be involved in these kinds of games reported having difficulties with handling their children whereas mothers who did found it easier to teach their children appropriate behaviors in the imaginary world. See, we knew all that time you spent being “sick” wasn’t going to be wasted.

3. How Pretend Play Develops As Your Child Grows Older

How Pretend Play Develops As Your Child Grows Older

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Your child isn’t going to be playing at house-house forever. Pretend play starts around the age of 18 months when babies pretend that an item is something else (2). For example, they might use a banana as a phone or a plate as a drum kit. However, in their early preschool years they switch to more complex pretend play that might not involve any physical props at all. They may take to pretending with invisible objects. The most complex kind of physical play involves other children and can last for days and weeks together. Of course, caretakers and parents can engage in pretend play with your children no matter what their age is. So, the next time your little one takes out a banana and pretends to talk to someone, play along.

4. Our Anxiety Levels Have A Huge Impact On Play

Our Anxiety Levels Have A Huge Impact On Play

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There’s no doubt that the mental health of caretakers and parents play a huge role in shaping the child and this extends to the way they engage in play as well. Research shows that mothers who struggle from having high levels of anxiety tend to refrain from joining in on their child’s pretend play escapades (3). And as we have just read, pretend play does help in curbing behavioral issues from arising in the future. So this is another way in which an adult’s mental health influences a child’s behavior and upbringing.

5. What Are Some Of The Key Benefits Of Pretend Play

What Are Some Of The Key Benefits Of Pretend Play

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These games may seem silly and like an absolute waste of time to some people but pretend play and imaginative play in general brings many benefits to your child’s overall development. For example, did you know that parents who let their children indulge in pretend play might notice that it helps to boost cognitive skills, social skills and even language skills (4)? That’s right, all that just because you pretended to be a pirate or a fairy for half an hour with your little one.

Moreover, this is a great way for your kids to gain some generic knowledge that they may use on a daily basis in the future. For example, in an experiment with the help of pretend scenarios about animals, kids were able to answer questions about animals they didn’t know existed (5). So parents might find it easier to teach kids about life just by pretend playing with them.

Playing with your child and having fun with them has a lot of benefits and advantages. So, the next time your child wants to be a bus driver, a dragon or a school teacher, go ahead and enjoy. You’re both reaping the benefits of pretend play!

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Kezia John

Kezia holds a deep interest in writing about women adapting to motherhood and childcare. She writes on several topics that help women navigate the joys and responsibilities of being a new mom and celebrate every stage of their baby's development. When she is not writing for MomJunction, she sings in a classical Western choir and reads endlessly.