November 8, 2019


   What do children learn when they are engaged in pretend play?  It is really amazing the list of things that they can learn such as:  about feelings as they act out times they have been upset or times they don’t really understand what they were feeling; about how to plan, work and get along with others; how to communicate with words and actions; to try out new ideas and work to solve problems; and in general they learn about people and the world around them through pretend play.

   Children around the age of one year will begin to pretend play.  They might pick up a doll and pretend to diaper it, feed it, and rock it.  They also might pick up a telephone and pretend to talk or pick up a spoon and stir pretend food in a bowl.  To encourage pretend play young children need toys that look like the real item to be able to play.  As children get older, they can use their imaginations more to make one thing stand in for another for example using blocks for food.

   Here are some ideas for themes to use for pretend play:  housekeeping; grocery store; library; camping; zoo; museum; farm; doctor’s office or veterinarian’s office; and other professions like the post office or fire station.  Some items you might want to collect at second hand stores for pretend play include:  dress-up shoes, hats, boots, jewelry, neckties, scarves, bags of all kinds such as tote, paper, suitcases, briefcases, backpacks, purses; wallets, keys, play money, male and female dolls, telephone/cellphone, blankets, clean empty food containers, pots and pans, calculator or cash register, and the list continues as you see items that might spark a child’s imagination for pretend play.

   Children can help develop a list of props or items needed for each new pretend play theme. The teacher or parent can start by asking, “What types of things would you find on the farm?” Children, as well as adults, can have fun coming up with a name for the new theme, such as “Brown’s Dairy Farm,” and making signs for the play area. 


Source: “Much more than the ABC’s” by Judith Schickendanz and Better Kid Care, Penn State University Extension