3 Skills Kids Learn Through Pretend Play

When we hear of the word “play”, we often associate it with engaging games of tag, sports activities, or physical exploration of environments. Physical play, though, is just one of many types of play that children engage in. There’s Constructive Play where kids learn to create things using blocks, clay, and other manipulatives. Competitive Play where they pit their skills with others and learn how to be true sportsmen. Then there’s also Pretend Play.

In Pretend Play, kids assign roles and act them out. They pretend to be someone, or even something, else. As their imaginations come to life, kids develop a myriad of skills. They become creative, insightful, and well-rounded individuals.

Skills Learned Through Pretend Play

During Pretend Play, kids learn how the world works and how adults interact. Their gross and fine motor skills are also developed. Aside from these, here are three more skills kids learn and develop through pretend play:

Language Skills. Pretend Play encourages expressive language. When playing with others, kids learn that words give them the power to re-enact stories or create entirely out-of-this-world ones. Oftentimes, they use the words they hear from the ones closest to them so don’t be surprised to hear your own words (might be even in a perfectly good impersonation of you!) during their play.

Thinking Skills. There’s really more to Pretend Play than “just playing pretend”. Kids learn to solve problems, organize and plan activities, retell familiar stories, and apply gained knowledge. Their imagination, which is an important building block for learning, is greatly enriched.

Social-Emotional Skills. While creating their make-believe scenario, kids learn to cooperate and to negotiate in their role playing. They learn to take turns and share. Sometimes, they also learn how to deal with disappointment. While they pretend to be someone else, they also develop a sense of self and individuality. As they discover themselves and their capabilities, their self-esteem then increases allowing them to confidently interact with others.

How To Nurture Their Imagination

Allow Them To Create Their Own Scenario. The best stories unfold when children are given a freehand on who they want to be and where they want the stories set. It’s perfectly fine to be Batman riding a horse with Sheriff Callie while exploring a new red moon in outer space. Their pretend world is as vast as their imagination, give them complete control over it and watch them develop story lines a thousand times more interesting than your favorite stories. Letting them use the backyard as a setting can help them to develop exploratory skills as well as giving them new inspiration for their imaginations. Chammy IRL explains how to make sure your backyard is safe so that you can give them free reign of this new, exciting environment.

Provide Props and Costumes. Dress up costumes from Smiffys would be wonderful but even old clothes would do. Kitchen sets, Doctor kits, Shop stands, and other toys help make pretend play more realistic. You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg in props though. Even ordinary household items can be used in Pretend Play. In our home, a blanket becomes a tent, the stairs a mountain to climb, our chairs obstacles in a grand adventure. Empty boxes turn into airplanes, or boats, or cars, or rockets, or whatever else is needed for the kids’ imaginary kingdom.

Play With Them. Playing with your kids is a two-way learning process. From you, they learn how to communicate, interact, and rationalize. You, on the other hand, can learn to understand your kids more. You can even discover a few things about yourself too as kids are wont to mirror their parents’ behavior. So, next time your kids run to you asking you to be the High Queen in their kingdom, stop for awhile and play with them. Just a few minutes of your time is forever for them. Know that “play” for them is not just play – it’s a learning process.

My Kids Have Multiple Personalities!

Since they were toddlers, my kids have been exposed to pretend play with their mom (that’s me!) not having any qualms being a lion, a bear, a rabbit, a queen, a witch, or whatever character needs to be put to life during story/playtime.  As they grew older, they transitioned from being my captive audience to being my co-stars.  Now preschoolers, they can weave their own stories and even create their own script.

Jade:  Jakei, you say ‘what are you doing, Summer?’ and then I’ll say ‘Oh nothing really, Henry.’ But I’m really preparing a surprise. Then you go over there walk back and pretend that you were surprised.

If you watch Disney Channel, you’d know who Henry and Summer are.  They are among the characters my kids love to pretend to be. There’s also Sophia and James, Jake and Izzy, and Doc and Stuffie.  I do let them watch television everyday but limit their tube time.  When TV time is over, the real fun begins!  While I do my chores, the kids become busy with their toys, notepads, drawing books, etcetera. Oftentimes, I stop what I’m doing to watch them at play.  It’s really entertaining to watch them pretend to be someone else in their own magical place.  But not when this happens:

Mama: Jade…………. Jasmine………… Jasmine……………. JADE………. JADE! CAN’T YOU HEAR ME?!

Jade: But I’m not Jade. I’m Maya the Bee. Jakei is Willy.

Jakei: I’m not Willy. I’m no one. Ate Jade is Maya, so you call her Maya.

If you’ve been spending the entire day doing backbreaking chores, this can be exasperating.  Fortunately, I don’t always spend the entire day doing backbreaking chores so most days, it’s just downright amusing.  Anyway, there’s no one else to blame but me.  I’m the one who raised my kids to have multiple personalities.  😛 As long as I get to be Momma Hugglemonster, the Queen, or Dottie’s Mom and not some ugly witch or horrible villain, I’m find with the pretend plays. 😀

Learning Teamwork and Developing Creativity Through Edmark Smart Cube

Electronic toys abound in toy stores nowadays.  Plenty claim to offer children hours of entertainment.  Some claim to be educational and would do wonders in improving children’s thinking abilities.  Although some are indeed very helpful in teaching some skills,  these toys are still quite expensive.  Add to that the costly batteries that need to be replaced often and you have a veritable money drain in your hands.

Another reason why we don’t usually buy electronic toys for our toddlers is that they seldom encourage imaginative play and are often meant to be played alone.  Puzzles, building blocks and even shape sorters on the other hand challenge children’s creativity and also encourage them to play together.  These types of toys are what my toddlers usually ask for during playtime.

One of their favorite toys is the Edmark Smart Cube which was given as a gift for Jade’s first birthday.  I once checked the store for its price and it costs only around 200 per set.   As for durability, we have been using our set for almost two years now.  It has withstood being thrown across the room, being smashed against the wall, being bitten by Jakei, and whatever else you could imagine a toddler doing with a toy.


Jakei used to just throw the pieces around or smash whatever his Ate Jade has built.  But he has outgrown this destructive phase and can now create figures by himself.  I really love seeing them working together to build something.   They are now able to take turns putting the pieces together.

A Little Imagination Goes A Long Way

One Toy + A Little Imagination = Hours of Fun

A couple of days ago, this mom was too lazy to bring out the toddlers’ toy box and just opted to reach for the nearest toy for the kids’ afternoon playtime.  Believe it or not, but this Mickey Mouse shape sorter gave us hours of wonderful playtime.

There are only 10 pieces to sort so shape sorting lasted only around 5 minutes, the time it took for the toddlers to be bored by the repetitious activity.

Jade then turned the bucket over and exclaimed, “C’mon! Let’s have a picnic!”  The bottom of the bucket became our plate and the shapes became strawberries, grapes, blueberries, carrots, etcetera, etcetera.  Some of the shapes were used as cups for our juice, coffee, Milo, and milk.

Although Jakei gamely ate whatever “food” his Ate Jade gave him, he was not keen on playing pretend picnic.  Instead, he “borrowed” the bucket, placed it on his head, smiled, and said, “E-ly Hat!” (Toddlerspeak for “silly hat”).  He entertained himself with his silly hat while Jade and Mama continued their picnic.

With our tummies full from eating all the picnic food, Jade then decided to join Jakei with the lid as her own silly hat.  Upon doning her hat, she announced, “I’m Princess Jade! I’m wearing a tiara.”  Insisting that I should be Queen Mama, she borrowed the bucket from Jakei and put in on my head.  I was able to convince her though that Jakei is a Prince and should have a crown too.  Pretending to be a royal family was replete with trumpeters announcing the arrival of the prince andthe princess, a sumptuous feast(with carrots according to Jade), and other royal festivities.

The bucket and shapes became a myriad things – a stool, a drum, a pail, a hat, fruits, cups, juggling balls to name a few.  And it provided us with hours of fun. This just shows that you don’t really need a roomful of toys to have fun.  All it takes is a bit of imagination and you’re all set for a good time!