Pretend Play & Why it matters

Pretend play is a fundamental part of childhood.  It might seem like it’s all fun and games but pretend play is serious business when it comes to child development.  Here are just a couple of the vital skills children learn from pretend play

Thinking Skills Problem solving opportunities are abundant during imaginative play.  Children need to negotiate, create and adapt which are all great skills that will help them in school and even into their adult life.  

Social & Emotional Skills Pretend play enhances interpersonal relationships and emotional development.  It helps children move from their own egocentric view of the world and enhance their ability to see someone else’s point of view.  Pretending allows children to work through a variety of emotions (e.g. anger, jealousy, sadness) and provides them with a way to deal with these feelings.  Role play is also a valuable way for children to experiment with and practice social skills before they try to apply them in the “real world”.  Pretending provides great opportunities for a child to fuel their own self-esteem – with their imagination they really can do anything! 

Language Skills Pretending opens up opportunities to learn and practice lots of new words that might not otherwise come up in a child’s daily activities.  It also allows for lots of playing with words and you just might notice a perfect imitation of yourself or another familiar adult!  

Simple things you can use to encourage more pretend play at home:

  • Dolls and stuffed animals (doll’s house with furniture and dolls, baby doll etc)
  • Empty containers (crates, boxes, cartons etc)
  • Old clothes and accessories (shoes, backpacks, hats, costume jewellery)
  • An old telephone (just make sure you remove and dispose safely of any batteries)
  • Old books and magazines
  • Cooking utensils (a durable toy tea set or some old kitchenware you no longer use/need)
  • Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets (for creating costumes or a fort/cubby)
  • Writing materials are great for encouraging pretend play and early literacy foundations

What if my child doesn’t pretend? You might not know but limited pretend play skills in children can be a sign of developmental problems.  If you are concerned about your child’s play skills you can book a consultation with a Therapy Alliance Group Speech Pathologist (aka speech therapist) or Occupational Therapist, both of whom are qualified to evaluate and assist your child in developing their play skills. 

                                                                     – by Rachel Tosh




About the Author



Rachel Tosh
Speech Pathologist

Rachel is a Certified Practicing Speech Pathologist (CPSP) with a wide variety of clinical experience in inpatient and outpatient paediatric care in both Australia and the UK which enables her to translate theory into real life application across diverse clinical contexts. Her latest adventure, Speech Parent is changing the face of paediatric speech pathology internationally by empowering and educating parents of children with communication and feeding difficulties. She describes herself as a recovering work-a-holic (we all know she isn’t actually recovering – seriously who else sends emails at 4:30am!?). Rachel is passionate about: business leadership; literacy and feeding difficulties; educating and empowering others; and optimising therapy outcomes. Although these interests may seem diverse, the recurring theme through them all is a love for facilitating growth and development in others so they can achieve their own unique potential. Things I like: “Lamb roast, reading, helping others and creating systems that work…I may or may not enjoy these together!” Things I don’t like: “People not respecting each other and children missing out because of bad care or broken systems.” Favourite colour: “Can I have the whole rainbow?” How the TAG team describe Rachel: “Passionate”; “Hard working”; “Creative”.

“Be there for others but never leave yourself behind”    -Dodinski


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