Before we had our second son one of the things we noticed about our oldest was his reluctance to pretend while he was playing. His autism diagnosis not long after explained why he wasn’t able to master or even care about this very important skill.
The arrival of our second son, however, changed everything. He is not autistic and is very social. He has a great imagination and wants his brother to play with him. This has been great for us because he makes his brother play and is teaching him how to use his imagination.
Dr. Kathleen Alfano, a widely-regarded expert in early childhood development says that, “Pretend Play is more than fun—it helps develop thinking and problem-solving skills and strengthens social and communication skills, as well. It lets your child “try on” endless new roles and new ways of looking at the world, which helps build empathy and imagination.”
This is important for us as we are always looking for new ways to improve our son’s social skills. Imaginative play time with his brother does this because they role play with their action figures and get dressed up and pretend to be police officers, astronauts and race car drivers.
Dr. Alfano’s Tips to promote “Pretend play”:
- Provide a collection of dress-up props for role-play.
- Look at the clouds and take turns imagining what they resemble.
- Plant seeds for imaginative thinking by reading lots of books together.
- Provide toys that encourage creativity and imagination.
- Make up stories with your child, building on each other’s additions.
- Arrange play dates with others to foster social and imaginative play.
- Listen to music with your child and act out how it sounds (sleepy, happy).
- Take turns “being” things that begin with each letter of the alphabet.
- Sometimes be your child’s play partner, sometimes just observe.
- Use your own imagination and awaken your own inner child.
In the last few months we’ve noticed that on top of being able to play along with his brother, our oldest has been initiating his own activities and is now even making up his own games or ‘rules’.
Trucks, building blocks and even a few basics like our Little People sets are great for setting up the scenario. We just model a few scenes and then let their imagination take over.
“Disclosure: I’m part of the Fisher-Price Play Panel and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.”