Winning the Battle with Boredom
Put any child in a room with just a few random objects and nothing else for entertainment and they will automatically begin using those items to play. Commonly, they will lose themselves in a make-believe world inspired by just those few random objects. Children innately know how to win the battle with boredom.
Play is not just about battling boredom, it’s pivotal to every child’s development. It’s how kids learn. Encouraging children of all ages to use their imagination has many benefits. Pretend play props help direct a child’s pretend play activities and provides a jumping-off point for a child’s imagination to soar into the stratosphere. Understanding the different benefits and stages to play can be helpful to any parent or caregiver who is interested in helping children learn through the power of play.
According to Mildred Parten Newhall, the six stages of play are:
As babies begin to experience the world around them, they find all the new sights, tastes, smells, sounds and things to feel, make the world a fascinating place. Babies are observing their surroundings in this stage, which is entertaining in and of itself.
Most parents and caregivers are excited when their littles begin to engage in solitary play. It gives parents a chance to do some dishes or accomplish some other task by just keeping an eye on a child. It’s fun to watch tikes play alone because they don’t yet understand or care if others around them are also playing.
In this stage, children observe others playing but do not try to join in the fun. Additionally, a child in this stage will often stop playing to watch a parent or caregiver do whatever it is they are doing. Watching you fold clothes or sweep the floor is temporarily entertaining them. Watching is part of how children learn.
Children in this stage can be seen playing at the same time as others in the general vicinity, but without directly interacting with other children. One child might be playing with building blocks or a doll right next to another playing with toy cars. These kids are playing in their own worlds, right next to each other, without ever noticing or paying any attention to what the other child is doing.
In this stage, children play alongside other kids doing similar activities. Minor interactions between kids may occur, but they have not yet started to organize or synchronize activities. Imagine a large pretend play kitchen where children are all participating in their own version of chef-, cooking-, restaurant-themed play activities but not actually playing together as part of one kitchen play scenario.
This is the stage every parent loves. When children start playing with others cooperatively, sharing and caring about incorporating other children into the group play scenario, this is where the real magic happens.
Cognition & Intellectual Reasoning
The foundation of intellectual development and cognitive processing can be found during pretend play activities. Children are naturally curious. Pretend play encourages them to use their senses to explore. This is how tikes start to understand how they fit into the world as well as how things fit together. All their thoughts about concrete objects as well as abstract ideas, such as family or love, start to take form.
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are often used for the first time as kids engage in pretend play activities.
Social & Emotional Development
Pretend play also helps tikes with social and emotional development. As they progress through Newhall’s six stages, kids go from playing alone to playing with others. Learning to be social and playing in groups is pivotal if kids are to grow into adults capable of working in group environments and collaborating on projects. Kids begin to understand there are social rules and expectations. They begin to listen, compromise, and share while playing.
Pretend play can help kids learn to have compassion for others and to include other children in play activities. They will also become more independent as they build self-confidence and self-esteem while playing. (Read more about instilling compassion in kids.)
Play is Valuable
With so many positive effects to play, it’s hard to imagine anyone isn’t sold on the benefits. Yet, to reinforce the value of play, mentioning the negative effects of not playing seems appropriate. Play reduces stress and according to studies a lack of play in a child’s life can lead to attention and behavior problems. This is especially true for children who are not given the opportunity to play outdoors so they can experience nature.
While it’s not always an option to take kids camping, hiking or on a field trip, there are pretend play props to simulate these experiences till the next opportunity arises. For example, we have road rugs where the theme is Countryside (LC966), Farm (LC116), and My Value Sunday Drive Carpets (LC7016 and LC7015).
City Road Rugs
For those who live in the country and experience nature daily, our city life road rugs might be a better fit. These play carpets feature roads and rivers for playing with cars and boats. We recommend City Play Carpet (LC104), My Metropolis (LC316), Value Size City Life Play Carpet (LC750).
Want to encourage your tike to build structures? These carpets are also perfect for budding architects, engineers, and contractors to work on their skills as they play with building blocks on the carpets to add different structures. Playing, in this case, will also help kids with spatial awareness as structures need to be designed to fit into limited spaces. Take a peek at our Highways and Byways Educational Rug (CPR454), Happy Little Town Play Carpet (LC315), and Driving in the Park Play Carpet (LC956). (Toys and blocks are not included with play carpets.)