I’m a big fan of encouraging my children to use their imagination and play independently.
Depending on the child, this happens in different ways, but there is always a difference between being entertained and playing.
My daughter is a true firstborn.
She wants to be first, do things right, and know all the answers to everything all the time. It is both exhausting and exhilarating to be her mother. She is not quick to cry, have a tantrum, or fuss. She doesn’t mind getting dirty, sweaty, or roughhousing with her brothers.
She, like Sofia the First character is courageous, adventurous, and confident.
When I was contacted about trying out the new Sofia the First product line I was so excited I actually called my mother.
True story. It’s my daughter’s favorite show on Disney Junior and is about a young girl who had an “ordinary” life and then became an “extraordinary” princess. She’s kind, sweet, and generous. Shh, don’t tell, but even the boys like to watch her.
How to encourage your children to play pretend
All children will naturally come into this stage of development – when they realize that play does not have to be reality – but some kids need a push. Especially those kids who are not skilled at playing on their own yet.
Teach them how to pretend
Children learn to start playing pretend somewhere around the age of 2 to 3. My older children didn’t get the hang of it until 3 years of age, but my 2-year-old now has played with the other ones so he tries to join in as well.
With my oldest, she needed a little nudging. We’d set up a tea party in her room and show her that you could drink a cup, even if it didn’t have any drink in it. Or you could eat
We’d set up a tea party in her room and show her that you could drink a cup, even if it didn’t have any drink in it. Or you could eat the fake plastic cupcake though it wasn’t the real thing.
She gave us a weird look for a while, but eventually got the hang of it and now, she is the most amazing pretender I’ve ever seen. As soon as she put on the Sofia dress and amulet, she was already “in the zone.” It’s much easier to pretend when you’re already feeling like royalty.
Give them props
My daughter loves princesses. Her favorite show is Sofia the First. She will get dressed in the morning and, just as often as not, come to breakfast in a princess dress with her fancy shoes and a wand if her brothers haven’t lost it.
By wearing a dress, cape, necklace, or fancy shoes, she is already halfway there. Children are very imagination and props might help them get there quicker.
But props also come by way of things you already have at home. Toilet paper rolls can be props for an obstacle course. A standard baby item a prop for “mommy daddy, and baby” game.
A swaddling blanket as a cape. A vacuum part as a sword. Pipe cleaners for a crown. Newspapers for a scroll. Blocks to make a plane.
Encourage your kids to think outside the box and soon it’ll become second nature.
Help them set the scene
While it’s all fun and well to help them come up with props for their favorite game, why not create a scene? This is why forts are so amazing. Build a fort, make a pallet, build a sandcastle, or a real “castle tower” with mega blocks.
My kids will play hide and go seek and the seeker is a lion. The others will run from room to room and closet pretending they are about to be devoured. This is such a quiet game.
If they like to play trucks, gather all the trucks into one area and create some easy ramps with books or boards.
If your daughter is playing princess, bring out stuffed animals, tea sets, tables, or whatever else she uses in her games. By helping them create an entire scene in their room or the living room, the game is much richer and more exciting.
Be silly and cheesy with them
This takes some getting used to. We aren’t all naturally gifted players. My husband has always found it easy to lay on the ground and get in the game.
It’s taken me a bit more practice, but it is truly one of the most exciting things to do. Not only is a great way to connect with your child individually, it helps you practice being a present parent.
You don’t have to join in the game for 3 hours, but the kids are likely to give you a recurring cameo. Do you find it hard to play with your kids? It’s easier when you jump in and make up a game with them.
You can be part of their scenario or let them give you a role. My kids often make me be the “big mommy” while someone else is the “little mommy.”
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