I love watching my children play. It’s nice to observe them getting lost in their toys, concentrating on building a tall tower out of blocks or zooming trucks around the living room. But I especially enjoy watching them when they get lost in their own make-believe worlds, pretending to be different people or animals. The stories they create as they transform into these new identities is so fun and sometimes humorous to me and my husband, especially when the kids will insist we join in to their made-up scenes. It’s really quite nostalgic for me as I used to love playing pretend as a child. I would use my toys and other household items as props and in my mind’s eye my room would become a wonderful new place to explore. It’s so great to see my son and daughter doing the same!
There are three main reasons why I believe pretend play is so important for children:
It encourages creativity and imagination! It’s amazing what kids will do with a regular household item and turn it into something completely new as they play, simply by using their imagination. A paper towel roll becomes a pirate’s sword or a handheld telescope, or a laundry basket becomes a crib while playing with baby dolls. Different scenarios can come to life through the power of a child’s creative mind!
It helps with developing social skills. When my son and daughter play pretend there is often some compromising involved, as well as sharing and taking turns. It’s a great way for them to learn to play nicely together and with others, and when conflict arises (as it usually does between siblings), it’s a good teaching opportunity for the parent.
It allows kids to express their emotions and gain a better understanding of them. I have observed both of my kids use role play to explore different emotions and clearly demonstrate in their own creative way that they are learning from their real life experiences. One day I watched my daughter as she was playing with her dolls. She was re-enacting a story I told her about when she was a baby and how I used to hold her up to my shoulder, rub her back and softly talk or sing to her if she was fussy. As she played with one of her baby dolls, she placed it on her shoulder, rubbed its back and sweetly said “it’s okay baby, Mama is here.” This is just one example of how I’ve seen my daughter demonstrate being caring and nurturing with her beloved toys.
While it is important for me as a mom to ensure there are educational benefits to how my children play and the toys they play with, there is one other reason why I think pretend play is so important: the wonder and magic of it. In a technological world with so many toys out there that take the imagination out of play by performing so many functions on its own, it’s nice to see children role play and make believe, especially when they incorporate playing dress up. Costumes, props and accessories are wonderful additions to any child’s toy chest, and they certainly add to the fictional worlds our kids create. I have kept my both my children’s past Halloween costumes to use for playing dress up and have also acquired a few other items, such as capes, masks, tiaras and crowns.
Crown courtesy of Great Pretenders
Recently I came across a family-run Canadian business called Great Pretenders that specializes in pretend-play toys. They have a large selection of great quality dress up toys, costumes and accessories, all carefully designed and crafted with a child’s whimsical imagination in mind.
If you are looking for some simple accessories for your child to play with, Great Pretenders has a wide variety to choose from, like this crown (pictured above) that comes in red or blue and is elasticized for a more comfortable fit, or this reversible hood (pictured below) that gives your child two superhero options! Speaking of superheroes, they also have a selection of capes to choose from, including reversible ones as well as sets that have a cape and mask together.
Photo courtesy of Great Pretenders
Great Pretenders also offers some cool costumes, such as fairies, princesses or pirates (examples pictured below) amongst others, and even have a section where you can find colour-in sets that allows your kids to get creative and decorate their own costumes with markers provided.
It’s wonderful to find a company with products geared mainly for the world of pretend play. I really like that the items Great Pretenders offers encourages children to be creative. No assembly required, no on switch, no batteries needed, just one simple instruction: imagination strongly recommended.