Leveraging Pretend Play for Learning

by Meghan

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This is a sponsored post compensated by Entertainment One and Scholastic. As always, opinions remain 100% my own. The next time your kids want to pretend play- wherever that adventure may take them – leverage it for higher learning, including problem solving, early literacy and beginning writing skills. 

How often do you participate in your childrens’ pretend play? Play is a critical part of early childhood development. It contributes to healthy brain development, social skills, and overall happier children. And you should absolutely provide an environment that fosters as much independent, pretend play for your kids as possible.

But sometimes, I encourage you to get involved in the act too. Note I said get involved; don’t takeover. You will learn so much about how your kids think, interact, and you can also help guide their play for higher learning purposes.

Leveraging Pretend Play for Learning

It was yet another rainy day. The kids were bored and begging to watch a show… but I didn’t want them to spend another day parked in front of the television. So instead, I told them to pretend play and create their own show and guided them in getting started.

Guided Pretend Play

Do your kids every say they are so bored, as they stand in the middle of a room full of toys? Sometimes it helps to give a little guidance – you can do it with simple set-ups, like sensory bins or centers like you often see in a preschool classroom.

Or you can ask leading questions – where should we pretend to go today? What will need for our trip? What should we do when we get there?

Pretend Play Trip to the Moon

On this rainy day, my 4 year old said she wanted to build a rocket ship and go to the moon. I helped them use a multi-purpose construction set to build the rocket ship. Then, we covered it in paper for them to decorate.

They decorated it for over an hour over the course of two days. When the kids declared it complete, pretend play fully took over. They dressed in costume and planned different space missions. They put other toys inside the rocket ship and pretended “to work on their computers” from space. And just when the rocket ship seemed to be at the end of it’s useful pretend play life, I leveraged it for even more learning.

Document Your Pretend Play

Preschool aged children and older may be ready to extend their pretend play to early literacy. This printable Mission to the Moon set allows them to do just that. I helped my 4 year old document our pretend play – we brainstormed a list of what to pack for the moon, activities we could do when we arrived, and then, let her illustrate and dictate her own stories of her moon adventures to me. All in the name of play.

How Much Learning Can You Create from Pretend Play?

What started out as a boring rainy day, turned into a week’s worth of pretend play. We used problem-solving and engineering skills to build our own rocket ship. My 2 and 4 year old freely explored their creativity as they decorated it. They used team work to plan adventures on the moon. And for my emerging reader/writer, we even used it for early literacy development. Now, they are more excited than ever to learn about the moon and space!

For more awesome Moon-inspired activities for kids, check out the Mission to the Moon website, featuring playtime activity ideas and crafts .

Mission to the Moon Sweepstakes

Follow Scholastic Parents Facebook page for a daily space-themed trivia question every day from July 1 – 30, 2018. Answer the questions with your kids and enter your response on the Scholastic sweepstakes website.

All submissions will be entered for a chance to win a trip to New York for a family of four to visit New York City science museums. Runners-up will receive age-appropriate Scholastic books and space-themed toys.

Disclaimers: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 US & DC. 18+ with at least one child who is currently 12 years of age or younger at the time of entry. Void where prohibited. Click through for Official Rules.

What is your kids favorite thing to pretend? Do you ever join in their pretend play? For more pretend play inspiration, be sure to follow my Pinterest board, Imaginative Play.

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1 comment

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1 comment

Hal Gourd January 17, 2019 - 8:15 pm

Really nice article. Jack Frost, the father of modern play science always advocated that free play was at the core of excellent child development. Unfortunately, a lot of modern playground design in the U.S does not allow for that type of play. Because of the ever more stringent playground codes, playground equipment has gotten more and more safe, which in the eyes of an exploring child means more and more boring. As a playground inspector, I wish U.S based playground designers could take a look at what European designers are doing.


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