The Importance of Pretend
I visited an amazing place yesterday. It’s called Pretend City and it’s located in Irvine, CA. If you are lucky enough to be within driving distance and have little ones between the ages of 2 to 8, go there! You and the children will have a fantastic time, I promise.
Pretend City reminded me what it was like being a child again. Of course, in my day we would pretend a box was a rocket ship to take us to the moon, a blanket was a cape that helped us fly and a bunk bed was a dark and scary cave.
At least, those are examples from my youth. I’m sure you have your own.
Even though, “pretend” has become more sophisticated since my day, the basics haven’t changed; the importance of fantasy in child development.
I’m talking about a child who constructs a fantasy world using their own imagination rather than one constructed for them via video games. Living in a world of fantasy (vis a vis video games) is not the same as creating your own whether it’s from something as inconsequential as a cardboard box or as elaborate as what children find at Pretend City.
The goal is exercising creativity. At Pretend City, a child can pretend to catch a fish, sell it to a restaurant and use pretend money to buy a pretend hamburger at the cafe for their Mom.
In one poignant example, a young child who proclaimed himself to be the Assistant Cafe Manager, asked a stranger how her lunch was. When she said excellent and pointed out her daughter who had pretended to prepare and serve it, the young boy gave pretend money to the girl as a raise for doing such a great job.
A manager in the making? Communication skills exercised? Understanding of work/reward? It’s all there and more.
Pretending is learning. Sometimes it might be hard lessons such as that capes really don’t help you fly off a brick wall (I’m not saying that was me). Sometimes, it’s so subtle that the child may not even recognize it as learning, but it is learning nevertheless.
Not only do we need to encourage our children to engage in pretend play, but we need to join them. By being part of the process, we can learn what most interests our children, how they learn and spend some quality and fun time with them.
Pretending can also serve as a refuge for children when life gets stressful. A safe place. Sometimes, it’s not easy being a kid. Ask any kid.
As with everything in life, balance is key.