Children love to imitate their parents and other adults. Pretend play for preschoolers needs only the simplest of toys. When your child reaches school age, pretend play is different though no less important. Play becomes more complex and centers on themes of mastery and relationships.
Homemaking, Dolls and Dress-Up
For homemaking play, you don't have to buy a plastic kitchen for your child's room. Instead, invest in a beautiful, child-sized wooden table, a tea set, kid dishes and pretend food, with dolls and stuffed animals to come to the party. Keep play-cooking utensils in the kitchen and let your daughter prepare her doll meals while she watches you in the kitchen. That way, you get to play too!
Dress-up clothes are the most-used toys when girls get together. Start with a princess dress-up kit, then add to your child's collection with Halloween costumes and thrift shop finds. Of course, Mom's old high heels, hats, and scarves are favorite accessories.
Boys and Pretend Play
Many young children become obsessed with pretending to be a certain character. Don't worry, they do outgrow it. Just ask my relieved friend whose child was a dog for months. Little boys like superhero, community helper, and cowboy dress-up. In elementary school, boys' pretend play changes. He likes to emulate sports heroes, play James Bond-type adventures, and do things that Dad does.
Elementary-age boys and girls are intrigued with spy kits and pretend camping equipment. You'll find lots of cool spy gear in the toys stores. For camping, start with a real sleeping bag, flashlight, canteen, and gear belt. An outdoor tent is probably best saved for late childhood.
Pretend Play and Learning Skills
You can start to build a fun home learning environment when your child gets old enough to enjoy playing school, office, and store. For older kids, buy real school and office supplies on sale. Add a dry erase board and other fun accessories. Use your imagination!
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