The Gift of Pretend Play - Maileg USA

The Gift of Pretend Play

By: Jodie V. & Sally Z.

Jodie is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist, FORT Pure Play founder & mom of three boys.

Sally is the Director of lower school, Curriculum Developer, 1st Grade Teacher & mom.

The summer days are long, but the weeks fly past! A short time ago, we were counting down the last days of school, but suddenly there are only a few weekends of summer left. Soon we will be reentering the relentless pace of the school year, with evenings and weekends filled with sports, lessons, and other activities. 

Summer is often just as busy, with every moment of the day occupied. But summer is a great time to slow down and create space for play. We play when we are on family vacations, building sand castles with moats, watching the waves wash our walls away and begin again. The sound of the ocean waves and the gulls. The warm sun, and the challenge of trying to build a castle that lasts will draw us into the pleasure and satisfaction of play. We carry the wonder and joy of those moments home with us, holding onto the memory during difficult days.

There are different kinds of play, all characterized by the playfulness of those who participate. Sometimes play is guided by an adult, or by the rules of a game. Unstructured free play is of critical importance in the development of the child. The play we are going to focus on in this series is the pretend play that children enjoy independently or with others. 

We don’t have to go on vacation to play. Play happens everywhere children are, if they are given the time and freedom to explore. Play can take many forms, as long as children are free to make decisions about the activity, are actively engaged, and having fun. 

Play can be as simple as stacking blocks to build a tower, or as involved as imaginative scenarios with props and characters that may continue for weeks.

Play is the work of the child, It is more important than ever before. All the noise that surrounds us, surrounds them too.

Play is the work of childhood for a reason

Children are created to play from birth. Mother Nature is very intentional. Free play allows the child to go within themselves and their imaginations.  Play is the means by which children develop physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively. Children need to harmonize their experiences, knowledge and skills. In play, children make sense of their world.  The value of pretend play is real.  The extent of the  development and learning that takes place through play in your own home may surprise you.  

Through play, children build themselves and make meaningful connections. They build worlds and tell stories. They take on the roles of different characters and imagine them in different settings. They are mothers and fathers. They are presidents and artists. They are crawling babies and powerful superheroes. Through play, they understand the world. This work of childhood is necessary and important.

What is Pretend Play?

 It is spontaneous, voluntary storytelling that has no limitations or set route. It may meander slowly, or change course suddenly.  It is unscripted, shaped by the child’s experiences and ideas. In play, the child creates a safe place and explores stories spoken or enacted. The child may have a plan when they begin and launch right into the action, or they may spend all of their time arranging and setting up the environment.

The important thing is that the child is free to authentically create, that they safely try out different scenarios and emotions, and that they feel empowered to make decisions. When children pretend they experience and process many scenarios, characters, decisions and emotions in worlds of their own creation.

How do we encourage pretend play?

To play in this way, children need a few things. As the adults in their lives, our role is to provide them with what they need to accomplish their work. They need time, space, and materials. The materials should be beautiful, natural, and simple. A simple toy does not dictate the play. It is free of rigid scripts. It should not do any work the child can do, such as make sounds or movements. Simple objects, such as acorns, stones, blocks, or fabric, serve as a blank canvas ready for the artist’s brush. Friendly, soft dolls and beautiful or interesting objects engage and intrigue the child, drawing them into increasingly complex play. 

An intentionally curated collection of beautiful, open-ended play pieces is a magical way to support imaginative play, It is necessary for the child’s healthy growth and development.  

The endlessly imaginative world of Maileg characters and their whimsical accessories elicit joyful and beautiful play opportunities for young children. Children are captivated and engrossed in their play, creating stories and finding joy with these exceptional pieces.  Play provides the very foundation for healthy child development, and Maileg is a company that understands that. They create unique pieces that promote the play to catalyze development physically, emotionally, socially, cognitively, and linguistically.

In this series, we will share play practices and Maileg products that enhance play to support healthy development in each of these five domains. We hope to inspire parents to provide the space, time and materials needed to promote the healthy development of every young child.