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Free Downloadable and the Benefits of Pretend Play

Free Downloadable and the Benefits of Pretend Play

by Victoria, Marketing and Communications

Downloadable Designed by Reagan, Engagement Specialist at Ralph Ellison Library

Children love to pretend! My daughters are constantly mimicking the things I do. When I'm in the middle of cooking a meal, I'll sneak around the corner to get a glimpse of them in the playroom. And what are they doing? They are pretending to cook at their play kitchen of course! When they see me put on deodorant in the morning, they lift each arm and pretend to put on their own invisible deodorant. 

While it’s adorable and flattering seeing my children mimic me as they wobble through the house with a pair of my shoes on saying “Mama!”, I know something much bigger is happening. They're learning new skills through pretend play. 

Pretend play helps children learn new skills through practice of everyday activities such as motor skills when they mimic a parent cutting vegetables in the kitchen. Children also develop empathy skills through pretend play such as when they see a caregiver soothe their upset sibling and they try to treat their pretend baby with the same care. 

This kind of play can also help children understand processes, such as playing grocery store and understanding that we must wait patiently in line and then set our items on the counter and wait for the cashier to scan them. These seemingly simple vignettes that a child acts out in play are actually teaching them quite a bit. 

In addition, processing new and difficult situations can also be expressed through pretend play. In a Washington Post article published in November 2020, a parent and journalist wrote about how the new coronavirus has also made its way into pretend play, and that’s not a bad thing. Children may adapt to the changes in our lives during the pandemic by playing with a mask on or playing grocery store with curbside pickup. 

Leela R. Magavi, an adult, adolescent and child psychiatrist and the regional medical director for Community Psychiatry, was quoted in the WaPo article saying, "Enacting stressful events through play allows children to understand their emotions and gain a sense of security due to the ability to take control of the story and its ending."  

Studies have also been conducted on literacy skill development through play. When children interacted with literacy materials within play settings, they found that they were more likely to become spontaneous readers (Bergan, 2002).

How can you inspire pretend play in your home? Put together a box of pretend play elements like costumes and other instruments that might inspire pretend play. We’ve attached a library pretend play printable below for you and your child.