Week 103 Brain Booster
When children engage in pretend play, they use symbols to stand in for their real-life counterparts: A banana turns into a telephone, a box becomes a car, a couch cushion emerges as a bus driver's seat. As pretend play develops, children are simultaneously learning to speak words—which are also symbols for objects and events they see and experience. In time, children learn to read words, yet another form of a more complex symbol system.
It's a thrill to see children use their imaginations to reenact and thereby learn about what they've experienced. And as she approaches this milestone, your child especially needs your support. How?
- Allow uninterrupted time to get goofy! While she's playing, don't step in and correct your child's actions, give the correct names to the items she's handling, or otherwise take charge of playtime. Give your toddler the space she needs to let her imagination take her throughout your playroom, your home at large, or an outside play space. Be watchful, but don't hover!
- Make non-toy props available. Tape, blankets, boxes, paper, scarves, Tupperware, rubber kitchen utensils … everyday items your child is already familiar with make fascinating additions to imaginary play. Soon, dress-up clothes will be enticing as well—start saving old sweaters, hats, and accessories now!
- Offer a partner. You're an ideal candidate, since your child trusts you and has the most experience having fun with you. But if you're uncomfortable or unable to be consistently involved in pretend play, encourage play dates with similar-aged children. Also, don't underestimate the power and intrigue of imaginary friends—learn more about them here.
Just as pointing was an important milestone at this time last year, pretend play is now a crucial sign of your toddler's cognitive development. Do all you can to recognize it and support its depth and breadth as your toddler progresses through her next fascinating year.
Curious about how else your toddler might be developing right now? Learn more about her clever brain and her growing body here: