By playFULL Box
As therapists, we work with toys on a daily basis to develop a range of skills in young children. Pretend play skills is one of the skills we often work on. The ability to pretend play is crucial in a child’s development and is linked to language, higher-thinking, social and emotional skills. Studies have shown that kids with better pretend play skills when they are 3-4 are more likely to have better language and advanced thinking skills at ages 8-9. The more complex a child’s pretend play, the better!
We have our favourite set of go-to toys when working with our little ones to develop their pretend play skills. These toys often have a few things in common. They are open-ended, spark imagination and encourage collaboration and conversations. Accompanied with the right strategies, these seemingly ordinary toys can be a powerful tool to develop key developmental skills.
When engaging in play with your little ones, you can try the following:
Observe what your child is doing and how they are playing.
Join in and play with your little ones. You can either use what they are using or grab your own toys and imitate what they are doing. This will garner their attention and pave the way for you to show and expand on their play.
Show them how to pretend play. For example, if your little one moves a car from side to side on the table, take a pen and pretend that it is a closed gantry which they have to pay the toll for before it can be opened for them to pass through.
- If your little one can already engage in simple one-step pretend play like stirring pretend liquid in a cup, expand on this by showing them that they can also drink from the cup and then pour more liquid in from a make believe jug before washing the cup and spoon.
Create obstacles to give your child the opportunity to problem solve. For example, if you are playing with animals tell them “Mr elephant is hungry, what should we do?”. Guide them if they are unable to solve this problem and see if they can do it themselves the next time!
- Encourage your child to express emotions during play. You can help them by getting them to identify feelings and personalities of their dolls. Use clear facial expressions to develop their understanding of the different emotions.
Here are some of our go-to toys to build pretend play. The rule of thumb when choosing toys for your child is to ALWAYS follow their interest.
2. Food Toys: Children are exposed to food daily. Food is something very familiar to them, making it an easier theme for early pretenders. At the start, your child might be more focused on feeding others with their food toys. With experience, they could even start throwing a pretend birthday party or picnic.
All the toys listed above can be found at www.playfullbox.com. playFULL Box is a monthly toy rental subscription service that gives you access to a wide range of high-quality educational toys without the hefty price tag. Most of our toys come with an information sheet to give you play time ideas and extend the mileage of your toy. Subscribe and choose up to 3 toys every month. Your playFULL Box will be delivered and picked up, fuss free.
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