Pretend Play Builds Brains and Relationships

Remember creating a “fort” out of blankets in the house or over the clothes line? Maybe it was a can to can string phone?  Pretend Play does great things for your child’s brain! Playing “dress up” or “tea party” or “Pirates” is very important “work” for their developing brains.

What is Pretend Play?

Children learn through imaging and doing. While they play, they test what they have learned from talking with parents and watching the world around them and make it their own– how things work, and what doesn’t.

Playing face to face, with your child– encouraging them to lead and explore, with you as a playmate following and their lead– gives you a window into the way their brain is learning about the world.

Often it involves new uses for common items.  Remember how they can get hours of fun out of empty boxes? Sometimes they prefer the box the toy comes in to the toy itself. Their brains love being creative with bowls, spoons, blankets, wood blocks, puppets, dolls, play figures and dress-up clothes.

How can play boost the brain?

They actually learn to solve problems, coordinate, cooperate, and think flexibly while “building” a post office in the family room, creating a restaurant, clomping around in grown-up shoes, becoming a pirate or teacher of stuffed animals, or building a stick and rock structure outdoors. What fun to exercise their growing imagination as the sandbox becomes a dinosaur bone excavation site!

 

 

Play with your child!

How do I play with my young child to build her brain?

Parent sets up the play environment but lets the child determine the course of play. The parent doesn’t model or drive the interaction, but follows and responds to the child’s choices

Pediatrician, Dr. Dipesh Navsaria says, “Children need to interact with people, not products.” Parent-child interaction is our most effective brain building activity. He suggests scaffolding play. When we resist the urge to tell them what to do, how to play; their brains kick into action. Encourage exploration and laugh together when things don’t turn out as planned. Ask, “What could we try to make that work?” rather than suggesting a solution. When they come up with it themselves-especially after many attempts– they will be justifiably satisfied.

Scaffolding builds on what the child has already figured out—using open-ended questions to move them to the next level. Help him go from “what he knows” to “what else could he know?” Let her lead the play – who says what, and the unfolding story.

Add Music

Music and movement ramp up brain building benefits. Make up songs together about what’s going on. Find ways to sing and dance while picking up toys, bath time, sorting laundry, cooking and anything else making it fun. Call and answer sounds and gestures, move to music by skipping, hopping, galloping, or twirling. There are no limits! Pretending with music, movement and laughter will grow brain connections while you make marvelous memories! Pretend play needs flexible time. Maybe leave the make-shift post office set up for a few days so the play option remains. Concepts they learn for themselves will last, and your relationship will grow. Great investment!

Resources:

Dr. Navsaria – http://www.navsaria.com/home/index.html

Bright Horizons – http://www.brighthorizons.com/family-resources/e-family-news/2013-importance-of-pretend-play-in-child-development/

Pretend Play- http://www.scholastic.com/parents/resources/article/creativity-play/importance-pretend-play

 

 

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Sidebar

 

Remember these 5 steps to help build your child’s brain.

 

  1. Look Look into their eyes and follow what they are looking at even before they can talk.

 

  1. Follow   Let them lead play while you follow, responding to their words, sounds, actions and ideas

 

  1. Chat  Talk (or sing) out loud to them about what you are doing together.

 

  1. Take Turns Encourage them to watch and copy you talking, playing or exploring, and you do the same.

 

  1. Stretch Ask “open” questions Build on what your child says by asking “open questions” like “What do you think about that?” “How do you feel about…?”

 

Adapted from downloadable tips from Vroom: Brain Building Basics

http://www.joinvroom.org/sites/default/files/Vroom%20Brain%20Building%20Basics_1.pdf

 

 

 

Eight Gifts You Can Give Your Child’s Brain

Nothing brightens my day like a baby’s contagious laugh. We can give them what they need to be happy, without breaking the bank. April celebrates the young child. These tips might help you, parents and caregivers, guide your little ones toward healthy brain development.

1. Security

You create his world. If he feels safe, he will be willing to try new things. If he is fearful, he may withdraw, refuse contact and choose to protect himself.

2. Touch

Loving touch soothes the central nervous system for both you and your child. It communicates safety and love. Enjoy snuggles, massage, and rocking while reading to her. These times are short.

3. Fuel Food

His brain doesn’t store the fuel it needs to operate. An infant’s brain uses 70% of his body’s energy. Every day it needs water, fresh fruit, and omega 3 healthy fats. These building blocks create and strengthen connections between his 100 billion brain cells.

4. Music

Both sides of her brain are active when she enjoys music. It’s a workout for her brain. She forms stronger memories when many parts of the brain are involved.

5. Movement

Your child’s vestibular system coordinates sensory input to send to his brain. Dance, skip, clap, and let him help you in the kitchen and garden. These activities provide the movement that gives each experience depth and dimension. His learning becomes multidimensional, richer and easier for him to remember and build on as he grows.

6. Reading and Language

Talking and reading with your child prepares her for reading and learning. Time with you is the best way to help her learn language patterns and support early social development. Does reading the same book over and over again get old? Remember repetition is exactly what her brain needs to learn.

7. Rest and Sleep

During quiet times his brain gets a chance to process his mountain of experiences. When he’s busy, his neurons are busy taking in sensory information. His brain’s original cells still need to be connected to one another. That happens during these breaks.

8. You!

Enjoy your time together. Give her face to face practice matching your expressions and language with everyday activities. Electronic media cannot substitute for time with you. She learns that she matters when you respond to her. Enjoy this together time and make some memories.

 

© Sandra Sunquist Stanton MS, NCC, LPC, Connections of the Heart LLC
 For additional articles and information, visit www.ourbrainbuddies.com or send an email sandi@ourbrainbuddies.com