Children explore the world around them and learn through pretend play. With so many passive activities like watching TV and playing video games, we sometimes need to encourage our children to pretend play. Here are a few suggestions on how to get those creative juices flowing for both you and your child.
Dress Up Box
Put a dress up box together with some of your old dresses, jackets, blouses, old Halloween costumes, etc. Don't forget to throw in some fun accessories as well, such as purses, hats, wigs, scarves, gloves. etc. If you can't find much around the house, look around at some yard sales and the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. You'll be able to find some great dress up clothes for your kids for next to nothing.
You may also get requests for some unusual accessories like space helmets, crowns, etc. Be creative and look around the house. A colander makes a cool helmet and you can form a sparkling crown out of aluminum foil.
All you'll need is any of the stuffed animals your kids already have plus some bandages. You can substitute an empty pen to serve as a thermometer or syringe. A pair of headphones can quickly be turned into a stethoscope by taping a plastic bottle cap to the jack.
You can quickly put a grocery store together on a low shelf or side table. All you'll need is a basket and several empty cereal and rice boxes. Add a few canned goods and some dry beans, and you're all set. You can also draw up your own money on pieces of paper and cut some coins out of cardboard. Ask your child to help you color them. Take turns with your child being the shopper or the storekeeper.
When your child gets bored of playing store, turn the grocery store into a library. Make up a library card for every family member and add a small piece of paper into each of your child's books. If your child cannot read or write yet, draw a symbol for each family member, or use a different color. When someone checks out a book from the family library, ask the child to record who took it and when it is due back in. You can also ask your child to sort the books either by topic or alphabetically.
Have your kids turn an empty cardboard box into a fire truck. They can color it and draw tires on with markers or cut out shapes from construction paper. Paint an empty clean can (like a coffee can) blue to use as an emergency light. You can have them make a police car, ambulance or garbage truck. You'll soon have your children pretend play to be a fire fighter, police officer, etc.
All you'll need are a few pots and pans, some wooden spoons, and if you'd like, some dry rice or beans. Your kids can also draw shapes of favorite foods on construction paper and color them with crayons or markers. After that, let the pretending begin. Encourage your child to pretend cook in the kitchen with you while you are fixing dinner. It will keep him or her occupied, while you can still keep an eye on him or her.
One of the most versatile pretend play toys are puppets. You can easily make them yourself. Take a look at these finger puppets (http://www.kinderinfo.com/crafts/fingerpuppets.htm) and handkerchief puppets (http://www.kinderinfo.com/crafts/handkerchief-puppet.htm). There is also a huge array of puppets from people to animals commercially available. Puppets will allow your child to recreate situations of everyday life and to explore different points of view. Watching them when they play with their puppets will give also give you a glimpse at how they see the world. Do you really say, "Please don't do that" that often?
Give your child the means and a little bit of encouragement to pretend play and they'll run with it. Our children are so observatory of their surroundings and also have tons of imagination. You'll enjoy watching them and interacting with them as they explore their world through pretend play.
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