When your little one’s imaginary friend joins the family for dinner or he/she hauls out a make-believe cash register to run a pretend supermarket, don’t be alarmed. Fantasy play is largely beneficial and an integral part of early childhood development.
Yes, hardly surprising now that pre-school classrooms need an imaginative play area, with a range of dress-up costumes to choose from. And not forgetting the kitchen and laundry accessories to run a house and even those doctor sets equipped with a scalpel and stethoscope guaranteed to make any surgeon proud.
|Masterchef Pizza Set
|Shopkins 12 Pack figures
Parenting expert Nikki Bush says pretend play is essential and gives children “an outlet” to create their own understanding of various dynamics in their lives. It allows them to escape from reality and helps them establish how they feel about life in general.
“Young children don’t necessarily have the language to convey how they are feeling, yet they experience such strong feelings, which are easier to play out during pretend play. Children talk to themselves and each other often during let’s pretend games, and this means they verbalise as they act, talk things through, which becomes a form of self-therapy,” she says.
And the advantages are endless; Bush says during imaginative play, kids also learn emotional and social skills necessary for a child’s early development. For instance, pretend play allows a shy child to play the role of a strict father or mother, which in-turn enables that child to work through his/her own feelings of fear and anxiety and teaches him/her to build self-confidence.
Chrismari Herholdt, clinical psychologist at Mediclinic Panorama agrees. Heroldt says pretend play is “very important” for a child’s cognitive and social development and helps to build skills essential to various developmental areas.
“Children experiment with social and emotional roles of life when they pretend play and these roles are important to develop social skills like sharing, problem solving and taking turns. Fantasy play also places no emphasis on social circumstances or a particular cultural group, and is an inexpensive way to play. It also keeps children away from electronic devices, which is an added bonus in a world where children no longer play the way they used to,” Herholdt says.
But dressing-up in the same superhero costume every day doesn’t mean a child is engaging in fantasy play. Instead, Bush says fantasy play is when children “dip in and out of it”, swopping roles and characters regularly to experience different aspects of themselves in a multitude of ways.
“Children’s lives can be greatly enriched and enhanced if parents encourage fantasy and pretend play. Parents who allow children the gift of fantasy or role play are helping them to create a better reality,” Bush says.
There are dozens of toys on the market that encourages pretend and fantasy play, an integral part of early childhood development. The Toy Kingdom Child Development team has carefully selected and curated a range of toys to serve this purpose.
“The Masterchef Junior Pizza and Baking Set, the Glow Sword and the Shopkins 12 Pack figures are just a few pretend play toys that hugely beneficial to kids and they should be encouraged,” Bush says.