Pretend play is when your child will start to mimic and act out familiar activities that he or she has seen you do. Role play and imagination is encouraged as your child serves food for the Teddy bear and bake muffins. Your toddler might begin imitating adult behaviour such as talking on the phone, reading the newspaper or doing housework. Play interactions get more sophisticated as your child uses realistic props and begins to combine actions such as pretending to stir the food before using a spoon to serve it to Teddy. Often as parents, we get too caught up in the gravity of it all and then pretend play loses its purpose. It’s vital to shift our focus on the ‘how’ and not on the ‘what’.

International research on teachers’ views on the benefits of play was carried out at the University of Belgrade by Nevena Mitranic. She found that teachers’ views on the benefits of play are varied, valuing play for many reasons, but primarily for academic and social gains. They also feel that inclusion is an important aspect of play.

A great problem solver: To call a spade, a spade might be a great virtue for an adult, but this doesn’t necessarily apply for a toddler. When a toddler is given Lego it could have a different meaning, it could be an aeroplane or a cupcake. The ability to think symbolically is essential to learning language. Pretend play requires children to think abstractly, which helps them become a creative problem solver.

Building confidence and balance: The most thrills that children get (especially boys) is by playing superheroes. Pretending to be Superman, Batman or Captain America makes them feel brave and victorious. This feeling of being invincible, which helps them develop self-confidence. The running and leaping keeps them active and builds strength, balance, and coordination.

Manage feelings: Often toddlers pretend and play roles that are not always joyous ones, they could be scary in nature too. By slipping into scary roles helps toddlers cope when they feel freaked out. At this age, your child may not have the vocabulary to explain what’s bothering them, but they’re able to release their emotions through play. Pretend play is a safe way to explore negative/bad feelings and find ways to manage them.

Imaginary moral support: When the toddler begins to create imaginary friends, parents find it bizarre. However, as strange as it might seem, it’s healthy for your child. Playing with this imaginary child develop the social skills he needs to get along with other children, such as sharing, cooperation, and taking turns. Battles with these imaginary pals allow your toddler to practice working through conflicts, such as fights over toys. Invisible pals can also provide moral support, just as a real friend would. Your toddler may be better able to deal with unfamiliar or scary situations because he doesn’t feel alone.

Academic research has proven that the development of the play follows a natural progression through a number of developmental milestones. Help stimulate your child’s brain development and help him or her maximize learning through various toys– all while having lots of fun, which not to forget is what playing is all about!