Tags: make believe
Your little ones simply adore copying what you do, and when your working in the kitchen, nothing will make them happier than to play with the same kitchen implements that you use - wooden spoons, spatulas, whisks and bowls. Of course, they don't need to mess up your lovely kitchen utensils, although nylon and wooden ones would be perfectly safe for them, you can also buy whole sets of kitchen utensils from any toy store.
Pretend kitchen play is a valuable pastime for all kids. At a physical level they are learning about materials and honing their fine motor skills as they drop ingredients into bowls and stir them. They are also growing their understanding of how food is prepared, learning what is involved and about where their meals come from.
As they grow older you can move from pretend utensils to real ones, and from play food to real 'dried foods' (such as pasta, dried fruit, cereal etc.) and on to genuine cooking. Next time you are in a supermarket, take a look in the home baking aisle and you will find all manner of easy foods that you can whip up with the kids.
Here are some simply foods that you can buy from the supermarket and which even the youngest children can 'cook':-
- 'Shake and bake' fairy cakes - just add milk, put into cake cases and bake
- Home bake scone mix - just add water (and raisins if you like), mix, roll, cut and back
- Home made muffin mix - just add a little oil, water and an egg, put into cases and bake
- Fresh croissant or pain au chocolate - sometimes difficult to find in the supermarket (try the chiller cabinets where ready made pastry is), fresh dough comes in a tube; open, shape the pastries onto a baking tray and bake
- Pizza - buy a fresh base and spread with your favourite toppings; start with a plain dough and add passata and cheese, or buy a Margherita and add your own flavours. Cook as per instructions
All these products can be prepared in around 5 minutes and baked in around 20, and can form a part of the children's real meals. Try to cook with your children at least once a week and they will have a whale of a time!
Most nurseries and reception year classes have a 'Home Corner' where young children are encouraged to play 'house'; you can easily create your own Home Corner for your own children or ones you look after. The Home Corner promotes dramatic play, both for individual children and for children participating in cooperative play. Give your children things that they see in their home and they will mimic what they have seen adults doing.
You can buy children's equivalents of kitchen 'white goods' - cookers, washing machines and fridges, but all of these are easy to make out of simple cardboard boxes. Acquire some suitable boxes from your local supermarket, cover them with plain paper, then paint on the relevant features: hobs on the cooker and a window and buttons on the washing machine. Cut out doors in the boxes - a full panel for the fridge, a small square for the oven and a round porthole for the washing machine. Score the back of each door with a knife along its hinged edge to allow it to fold open easily. Use a plastic bowl for a sink, just place it on another box that can have a door in to act as a cupboard. In no time at all you'll have a simple Home Corner that will keep your little ones happy for years!
In addition to appliances, add props. Donate old kitchen equipment like wooden spoons, mixing bowls and other implements. Toy stores sell play implements, but you will probably find it as cheap to buy real plastic sets from a supermarket! Add sets of plastic or wooden food from a toy shop.
If you have some low shelves, make these a part of the Home Corner too. Encourage your children to put everything away neatly and keep their Home tidy!
Role play forms a natural part of childhood, before long your little ones will assume characters in different scenarios and act out the different parts. Often role play is based on what children have observed, such as caring for younger siblings, keeping a shop or playing doctors, families or schools. As their imagination grows, so they begin to play made up scenarios such as fairies or princesses, explorers or monsters!
Role play offers many lessons to a developing child; clearly pretend play extends language and social interaction as children play with one another, or with a parent. Make believe nurtures imagination and helps children to develop abstract thought where they can extend the rules of the physical world into their pretend world. As they play they are developing their understanding of the world, learning to solve problems and learning the ability to view the world from the perspective of others.
Many role play games reinforce gender stereotypes from an early age; this seems to be a natural part of early play. Doctors and nurses and mummies and daddies might seem politically incorrect in this day and age, but the lessons learned from free play are much more important than lessons enforced about gender stereotyping at this young age. Any separation along lines of gender simply mirrors their understanding of the world through their own observation, and is done entirely innocently.
Other role play games reinforce notions of good and bad; cops and robbers, fairies and witches, cowboys and indians or simply goodies and baddies all draw lines between the good side and bad side and children dividing themselves in such ways will conform to the expected behaviour.
Young children should be encouraged in their make-believe worlds. They might be asissted with dressing up clothes or large props such as play houses or camps, but at the end of the day, children will be children and will explore their imaginary worlds even without these!
Dramatic play is a great way to encourage communication, teach your children about social behaviour and show them how they should respond in unfamiliar situations. It is a means by which children can imitate adults and act out various situations. But, remember even dramatic play, is still play! Don't make it arduous. It's just a way to re-enact situations or practice behaviour and use their imagination! Most of all, its a way to have some FUN!
When children dress up and do dramatic play, they can try out new roles, experiment with behaviour and watch for other people's reaction. It's a way to further understand their world.
How can you encourage this type of play? Here are a few tips.
Be a playmate. Don't just tell them what to do; get down there and play with them! If you become a playmate, an equal, it will seem that you are both on the same level and this may encourage dramatic play. Act out going shopping, going out for coffee, going to a library. Get your child to talk and act like the shopkeeper or librarian. Choose a situation that your child will relate to. Keep it casual, keep it simple and keep it fun.
Don't interfere. If you want to encourage creative, dramatic play try not in interfere too much or lead the game. Try not to suddenly announce all stop for lunch and spoil the flow. Why not have lunch in the underground cave or on the pretend plane? Play along with what they are doing. Welcome their ideas.
Space. Creative play needs space so try to create some space that can be used and not worry too much about it getting messy or untidy! A dining room table can become a cavern, the sofas can be moved round to create an indoor play house. It can all be tidied away afterwards! It helps the children be creative in their play and makes them feel they are a little in control of the game if their ideas of building a blanket rocket are not always met with a no!
Ideas. Use things you see or read about as ideas for imaginative play. Create a fairy cave or a vets on the moon in your living room and try and encourage any ideas your child has.
It's a good idea to have a collection of bits and pieces that you can use again and again for dramatic play. You could use an old cardboard container as a prop box and keep some useful props in there at the ready. Or, just gather the bits and pieces as you need them. Below are some ideas of things to put together to really make a bit of imaginative play into something really special - especially if you permit your child to use real, grown-up items!
Ideas for a prop box:
- At the Beach: Sunglasses, towel, sun cream, shells, play food, picnic rug, sun hats
- The Vets: Stuffed animals, cotton wool balls, doctor's kit, blanket, basket, money, boxes, real carrot for the rabbit
- Post Office: Pens, paper, paper clips etc. Paying-in slips and forms from a real post office/bank. Money, envelopes, junk mail, hole punch, stamper.
- Decorator (a good one for outside!): Buckets and pots of water, apron, different sized paintbrushes, child step to reach high, cap, rags and cloths.
Put a bit of thought into your dramatic play together and you'll find you both really enjoy it!
Research suggests that babies who blow bubbles develop language sooner than babies that don't! Blowing bubbles, licking lips and other complex mouth movements help to develop essential control required for language. Making hand gestures, waving or making shapes in the air, is another sign that your baby will develop strong language skills. Language development is not linked with the ability to walk, and surprisingly, strong mental skills such as the ability to do puzzles also do not appear to be linked to the development of language. However, the ability to pretend, such as pretending that a cardboard box is a car, is another hint of strong language development. Babies develop language at different times, so don't worry if your's is late in developing - it does not necessarily mean that your child will have problems in learning.
Kids love to play make-believe and it forms an important part of childhood development. The last thing you want when you are preparing their real meals is for the children to be snapping at your heels, getting in your way and being dangerously close to hot food and other hazards. Why not let them make their own food? ...well, pretend to at least! Give them a few small containers (such as yogurt pots or a muffin tin), a couple of wooden kitchen utensils, and a few dried foods such as pasta, beans, and lentils. They will entertain themselves 'cooking', sorting the foods, putting them in and out of pots and so on, leaving you clear to prepare their proper dinner!
Toddlers and young children love to dress up and partake in role play games. It's amazing where their imagination will take them and one of the privileges of being a parent is to watch your child or children playing make-believe! As parents, you should encourage games that stretch the imagination and nurture the creative processes of your children. Children will assume many roles and often will act out how they perceive their influential role models to be, so sometimes you'll catch your kids playing 'Mummy' or 'Daddy', or they will be their teachers or other family members. Encourage play by giving them clothes to dress up in - you needn't buy them a wardrobe of expensive dressing up outfits, they will get as much joy simply out of wearing your old (and current!) clothes!