If you’re like me, I am always thinking of the latest and greatest toy to play with my daughter. But we don’t necessarily need toys to make playtime a blast! The other night as I was getting ready to cook dinner, my daugther walked up to me and asked me where her keys were.

The next ten minutes were spent helping her stuff her purse with items she told me she needed to go to the store. She needed her keys, her credit card, a shopping list, her “yip-stick”, etc. It’s truly amazing what kids pick up simply by being with us!

Anyhow, once she was ready she asked me where Target was. Still trying to get dinner on the table, I quickly grabbed a pack of paper, a marker and some tape. Target would be near the playroom. I wrote “Target” on the paper and asked my little shopper what we normally get there.

THIS IS THE IMPORTANT PART! In order to boost literacy awareness, put a picture with words that you post around. This way, even a 2 1/2 year old can “read” the signs. Her answer: milk. I added a picture of milk next to the word. Yes, it’s true, I get a starbucks and she gets a milk when we go to Target! We did this for a few minutes and these are the signs we ended up with all through out our kitchen, family room and dining room….

  • Target: picture of milk

  • Costco: pizza and ice cream

  • Ikea: pizza and ice cream

  • The Bank: money and a sucker (ugh, they are always offering them to her at the bank!)

  • Grandma’s House: A picture of Grandma

  • The Grocery Store: bananas, milk, apples and pears.

And now, from the experts over at One Step Ahead who talk about the different types of Pretend Play (Imitating Mom and Dad, playing dress up, acting out real life situations, reenacting stories, creating a make-believe space, and performing for an audience.

Role play is more than fun…it’s a key component of learning. According to child development experts, role play helps children acquire all kinds of skills and knowledge, encouraging them to:

  • Explore imagination

  • Think in the abstract

  • Acquire language skills

  • Build social skills

  • Problem solve

  • Understand someone else’s perspective

  • Learn essential life skills from adults

  • Discover leadership skills

  • Safely explore the world beyond

  • Acquire confidence and a sense of self

If that isn’t amazing enough, consider this: because role play engages emotion, cognition, language, and sensory motor skills, scientists theorize it actually creates synaptic connections between parts of the brain. And the more synapses, the greater a child’s intelligence!

I am curious about what Pretend Play looks like for you and your children! Please share!