The world can definitely be a scary place for our little ones right now. Suddenly they aren’t allowed to go to school anymore, they may not be able to see certain people due to the risk, and they are being told that life as they know it is now different due to a global pandemic. My boys simply refer to it as “the sickness,” because that is how they process it.
In an effort to combat so many unknowns in the world, I have instituted a lot of pretend play at home.
Now, I know what you are thinking- how is pretending going to help unknowns?
Well, it’s simple- it gives control to children. They get to make up the stories, the progression of events. When so many things feel out of their control, it’s nice to be able to give them something they can control and hold onto.
Pretend play also provides so much more, developmentally. It helps develop language skills, social and emotional skills, and thinking skills. It allows your child to connect with the world around him or her and begin to piece together the how’s and why’s, what phrases could mean, and how to solve problems in a safe environment.
Pretend play doesn’t have to be some elaborate game. Stick to what your kiddos are interested in, what they get excited about! Some of our favorite pretend place games center around things we do normally (or not so normally), things we see done on TV, and things we would like to experience and explore.
I have included just a few of our favorites, but with your imaginations, pretend play opportunities are endless.
For those of you who watch as much Food Network as we do probably already know the premise of this game. The boys pretend to be chefs (or judges depending on their moods), and they whip up meals based on the basket of play food they are handed. It’s hilarious to hear them talk about sautéing or garnishing meals. They are also BRUTAL judges. We already love to watch this show as a family, so getting to play it has also been an absolute blast!
We get out backpacks, a whiteboard, some books, and a chair for the “teacher” to sit in. We often will get out the bin of flashcards and sight words. Whoever is the teacher will lead a lesson with one of those things. It’s a great way to practice academics in a no-pressure, fun way. We also will often end with “recess” and then go while playing sports in the basement.
This is much like playing school, but instead of being in the building, we are going on a field trip. Sometimes it’s a march through a forest where we look for wildlife. Other times we will pull up the live streams from some of the national zoos or aquariums and pretend we are going to those exhibits. We usually end this game with a sack lunch on the living room floor.
This is one of our favorite pretend play activities. The boys have a basic doctor kit, so sometimes they will play doctor as humans, but sometimes they play vet. My husband and I like to check in ourselves or animals (depending on the type of doctor the boys are) and create some wild medical mysteries. The boys will often find themselves in hysterical laughter while trying to work out the case of the cat who burps frogs, or the man who has purple spots and can only speak in Klingon.
This game usually involves my husband or I laying down on the bed to go to “sleep” and our boys acting as the parents putting us to sleep. Once they close the door, we start up a ruckus. We will laugh, sing, make jokes until we can hear the boys run back down the hall. They will whip the door open, only to find us “asleep” again. For some reason, this one just cracks them up.
Sometimes we will pitch a tent in the living room or basement and go on a camping adventure (this one works great in the winter months!) We do all the things one would do when camping- gather wood, eat hot dogs, yell at mosquitoes. Then it usually culminates in bedtime in the tent.
The adventures you can go on as a family are endless! Have a carnival, set up a restaurant, have a pet grooming shop!
What are some of your favorite ways to pretend play as a family?
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