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The Power of Make Believe: Encouraging Pretend Play
by Michelle Albright, PhD, innovativeKids   |   October 21   |   0 Comments
Tis the season for dress ups! Is your child going to be a cheetah, a pirate, a princess, a superhero? Halloween costumes are all about making believe.

Photograph courtesy of Jaimie Duplass / Shutterstock.com

But what about everyday pretend play? Young children learn by imagining and doing. Sometimes, kids need a little help from their parents to break out of their routines, get creative, and really use their imaginations. Here are some tips you can use to inspire them!

  • Plan for play. Ask your children what they want to play and encourage them to think about the different characters, props, or scenarios they might want to create. Help your children figure out what roles they will play and how they might act like a dragon, talk like a teacher, or move like a bird.
  • Look to favorite stories for inspiration. Encourage children to create and perform a play based on one of their best-loved stories. They can try out different roles, or even invent a different ending!
  • Don’t just rely on the realistic replicas. Instead of searching actual crowns, capes, and cowboy hats, give your kids neutral objects like paper plates and cups, sheets and towels, and ribbon and yarn and see what they can create. Encouraging children to alter or create existing materials will foster their cognitive skills and creativity.
  • Take a supporting role.  Playing a supporting role can help guide and stimulate children’s pretend play. For example, if your kids want to play doctor, pretend to be a patient and describe what’s hurting. This can help model roles and expand your children’s language, communication, and perspective-taking.
  • Alter the ages. If possible, encourage your child to play with kids of all different ages. Watching older children play can help model and motivate imagination, language, and social skills, while mentoring younger children can build confidence and comfort.
  • Make it a challenge. Take an ordinary household object like a shoe box or empty jar and challenge everyone in the family to create something with it. Give everyone a few hours or a few days and then showcase and share what each person has come up with. (Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis, is a fun book you can read before starting this activity).


Michelle Albright, PhD (Psychology), works with innovativeKids as a blogger and a consultant. She has also worked with schools and communities for over 15 years to promote children's language development, academic achievement, and social-emotional learning, and has collaborated with researchers at Yale University. Michelle is the busy, creative mother of two young children!

About InnovativeKids
InnovativeKids is the proud publisher of the Now I'm Reading! Plays (by Nora Gaydos), which encourage beginning readers to "make believe" and act out their favorite stories as they practice reading skills. Their extensive list of award-winning products also includes puzzles, games, toys, and books. All InnovativeKids products are designed to give children fun, multi-sensory, hands-on / minds-on experiences that encourage discovery, inspire imagination, and enhance essential learning skills. InnovativeKids understands that everyday play leads to extraordinary learning! Like the innovativeKids Facebook page to get regular updates about products, play, and learning!  


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