One of the biggest challenges in raising kids is time management. There is never enough of it and you cannot recreate it. Hiring a sitter or nanny is a typical solution for allowing you to be away at work or running errands, and it’s also a good opportunity for your kid(s) to engage in some quality pretend play while you’re away. There’s significant development taking place in these moments of imaginative play, establishing a foundation of skills to build upon into adulthood. Here are some of the skills your kids learn through imaginative play.

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Kids can use pretend play to mirror their own lives. So while playing with dolls or puppets they can safely express some of their interests, likes, abilities, and even fears. Projecting these feelings and ideas onto the inanimate object is a good way kids can express themselves without pressure.

Role Play/Rehearsal

Kids can rehearse and re-enact real-life scenarios that may confuse or intimidate them. Recreating a doctor visit or even a store visit can help familiarize them with the experience and prepare them for the next real-life occurrence.

Social Development

Delayed gratification, compromise, dividing responsibilities, and self-expression are all skills that improve through pretend play. Essentially this is practice for working on a team of any sort. Sports, school groups, and even a corporate office all thrive on people with these skills.

Emotional Intelligence

Learning social cues and also acknowledging and managing their own emotions can be a result of pretend play. These skills are learned through interaction and taught through experience.

Skill Synthesis

In school, learning is divided into subjects, teaching skills in isolation. Pretend play gives the opportunity to bring all those skills together, from mathematical skills like counting and sorting, to reading and writing, social interaction, and teamwork. This is a more representative simulation of real-life making it a practical rehearsal for combining these skill sets.

As you begin to discuss pretend play with your nanny or sitter, here are some examples of how to structure intentional pretend play.

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Get Out the Dolls

Whether dolls, stuffed animals, or toy soldiers, this is a simple way to begin to role-play. Ask questions about the chosen puppet like, “who are they?” and “how are they feeling?” “What do they like, what don’t they like?” Take time to get to know and develop the character and let your kid’s imagination take off.

Prop Boxes

Gathering items that fall along a certain theme and purposely offer them as a unit. Themes can be occupations, locations, weather, anything. See how the kids relate the items to one another and see what they already know about them.

Create a Story

Whether you use a story you already know or create a new one, begin the story and let the kid(s) create the ending. Ask about alternate endings if something changed in the story. This develops cause-and-effect thought processes and provides a space for role-playing real-life scenarios.

Imaginative play is more beneficial than you realize, especially between the ages of two and seven. Coming home to your kid(s) who have gone to outer space and simulated a doctor visit is the sign of an engaged and involved nanny or sitter. This time spent rehearsing real-life scenarios can deepen their understanding of the world around them and their role in it.

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