In Kindergarten, children are encouraged to get involved in the world of make-believe and to participate in pretend play every day:
1. To encourage imagination and creativity
Research has identified that an important benefit of early pretend play is its enhancement of a child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and, ultimately, creativity. By absorbing themselves in an imaginative game, whatever it may be, children are given the opportunity to practice using their imagination, to exercise their brain and train it to think creatively and to learn how to think for themselves.
2. To support the social and emotional development
When a child engages in pretend or imaginative play, by pretending to be different characters or by controlling objects in their own way and observing the result, they are essentially experimenting with the social and emotional roles of life. It’s about learning who they are as individuals and how they fit into the world around them, how the world works and how to walk in somebody else’s shoes. They develop empathy and learn how to co-operate, to become responsible and how to share responsibility.
3. To improve language and communication skills
It is fascinating to listen to our children interacting with friends. They often come out with words or phrases that we had no idea they knew! They can do very amusing impersonations of their parents, carers, and teachers too!
4. To develop thinking, learning and problem-solving abilities
By its very nature, pretend play presents children with a variety of different problems to solve and scenarios to think about carefully. Deciding what games to play, what roles to take on, who will be involved and how, what materials are needed for the game and what rules apply to the game, and how to overcome scenarios where something “goes wrong”, all require much thought and deliberation in one way or another.
5. To enhance physical development
Aside from all the wonderful cognitive benefits that pretend play has to offer, it is important to remember that pretend play is very often physical and is a wonderful way for children to be active, to exercise and to develop their gross- and fine-motor skills.