When I was a child, I remember spending hours and hours “playing pretend” as we called it. Whether my sister and I were playing school, or playing with our doll house, or pretending to be adventurers exploring a cave (pillow fort) with flashlights, we were always building, creating, imagining and exploring our world.
Now that I have children of my own, it warms my heart to see them doing the same kind of pretending that my sister and I did all those years ago. These days, however, our kids can be easily distracted by the mind-numbing action and noise of media. These days, more movies and t.v. shows and iPad apps and tablets are marketed to and devoured by our kids, as young as 18 months old (if not younger). And while I don’t think the t.v. shows and apps are necessarily “bad” for our kids, I think they need to be consumed in moderation. Instead, I think our kids need to spend more time engaged in creative and active play (i.e., playing pretend and climbing the jungle gym) and we as parents need to be proactive in encouraging those important behaviors.
The Importance of Imaginative Play
Pretend play is not as simple as it may seem. When your child is engaging in creative or active play, they are cultivating essential developmental skills.
Social and Emotional Skills
When your child plays pretend, he or she is experimenting with social skills such as cooperation, taking turns, and sharing. Your kids are also learning about themselves and how they relate to other children and other behaviors. Children are also experimenting with roles different from their own (such as pretending to be Mommy or a police officer) as well as emotions that they may have seen but not fully understood (sadness, anger, joy, disappointment, etc.). These are all incredibly important skills that each child needs to learn and develop as they grow.
Children who pretend also engage in problem solving. They often need to problem solve as an individual (how do I make this tower bigger without it falling over?) and finding solutions together as a pair or a team (how do we secure this sheet to the chairs to build our fort?). Kids often have to discover and analyze which tools they need or what materials they should use when engaging in creative play. When they start to think like this, they are working out the muscles that will allow them to better think creatively as they become adults and face harder problems in life.
The next time your kids are pretending, listen to their conversation. Do you recognize some of the phrases they use? Maybe something you say to them over and over (“The toilet is NOT a Barbie pool!”). Kids who pretend practice a lot of language skills, including their ability to communicate their needs and desires. They’re also showing us a reflection of how they understand the language their parents use, which can be good or bad depending on the situation!
Sometimes it can be hard to encourage our kids to put down the iPad or move away from the t.v. to play using their imaginations. But it is our job as parents to nurture the art of creative play. One company making that job a lot easier for us parents is Antsy Pants.
Antsy Pants has created new Build and Play kits that are designed to let kids’ imaginations run wild and encourage families to build, learn, create and play together. Antsy Pants kits not only inspire creativity, they also encourage active play through building. With a wide variety of kits and covers to choose from, each kit comes with easy to assemble, color coded Snap and Click poles and connectors that allow parents and kids to build their kits easily.
Not only do they create wonderfully imaginative, easy to use kits, Antsy Pants believes that every child should have the chance to engage in creative, active play, so they have partnered with a national non-profit organization called KaBOOM! to build playgrounds for kids living in poverty across America.
My kids and I love Antsy Pants kits! Recently, my kids have been playing non-stop with the Market Stand and Shopping Cart kits. I love to watch them take turns being the grocer and the shopper! They love to exchange pretend money (“That’ll be forty-one hundred dollars please!”) and describe the pretend produce they’re “buying.”
I put these kits together in under 20 minutes! They are easy to assemble and disassemble if I need to put them away for any reason.
When my kids are playing with their Antsy Pants kits, they are truly using their imaginations and creating all those awesome memories my sister and I were able to create when we were kids. I love Antsy Pants kits and the endless hours of fun they have made possible for my kiddos (if you want to grab a kit, and I highly encourage it, they are only found at Target stores!).