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The Importance of Pretense Play

Updated on July 8, 2013

Child's Play

Bettlheim says that play time is the ‘royal road’ to a child’s inner world because it allows (the) child to express their perceptions of the world.  It lets the child be who he/she wants to be. Play, likely unknown to the child, taps into inner desires, problems and anxieties. Children, as do adults, go through a range of emotions, children however, during play re- enact scenarios the way they would like to have done.  In essence, they (children) learn to cope and deal with emotion.  

Play helps kids to acquire cognitive (thinking), social and emotional skills needed to be successful adults later in life. It lets them face situations that they have been unable to articulate and learn to overcome them. Through ‘free play’, children unconsciously learn to reason, decide what is appropriate or not, and debate arguments. They learn ways to reach a consensus and its importance. ‘Freelance play’ develops in children the many skills needed, including socializing, to form healthy relationships among others.

 ‘Playing’ is something that can be done alone and without rules being imposed by outsiders. All rules are personally imposed or created by the solitaire individual. ‘Playing a game’ on the other hand usually involves two or more persons who are competing for the same goal, prize or reward. Playing games have external rules or rules that are agreed upon by all participants.  Play is nothing more than joy and entertainment. Playing games may or may not be joyous or entertaining but will surely include some level of stress.  Adults should not interrupt kids when trying to play a game by imposing their rules, but rather let the children create the rules. Just because a game comes with instructions does not mandate how it must be played by consumers.  It is time well spent for the kids even if more was spent debating rules over actual play.

For all children, playing’ is their absolute reality even though they live in the world alongside adults.  Most times adults will send a child off to play so they can handle what they feel is important, deeming play for the child as unimportant; a means to busy the child. When this is done continuously, the child will eventually sense it as ‘pass time’ and loose enjoyment.  Parents and adults alike should let children just play, not try to impose their own competitiveness or rules on the child’s activities. This can also lead the child to enjoy play less.  Children want to be assertive and independent, so when caretakers step in to show a child the correct way to play, it takes away from the child development. Without reversing the role of parent/caregiver and child, adults must learn to respect children’s’ play time in the same we expect them to respect adult play time.

Boys and girls are okay to play with the same toys. Common myth is that dolls are for girls only. Reality is that dolls are made for boys just as they are for girls. Dolls can be essential in helping boys and girls cope with new siblings entering the home as well as other relationships, in and outside the home.  Dolls make boys no more feminine than they are born.  Educational toys are excellent but only when the child is left to play as child see’s fit.  In their own time they will most likely find the proper way to use toy, without being shadowed. Toy guns are also okay as long as children are not encouraged shoot or aim specifically.  This is another time when parents are mistaken that ‘play’ is not real, but remember ‘play’ is a child’s real world. When/If a child shoots at parent during play, parent should not shoot back. At the end of such play a child should feel the joy of protecting and saving and quickly forget the act of shooting.


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