If you read my last blog, you know I’m sick. So sick I’ve been confined to my bed since yesterday. Spending the day in bed seems much more appealing when it’s something you want to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful I’ve had help and haven’t had to worry about doing all my mommy duties while contagious, but hearing your kids in the other room ask for you only to be told “mommy is sick right now, she needs to rest” hurts my heart more than this sickness is hurting my body. With the help of meds, rest and lots of water, my fever finaaly broke this evening. So, when I left my room to go to the bathroom and heard my youngest call for me, I was torn, I know my symptoms are just masked because of the meds and that I’m likely still contagious. Do I venture into the living room or do I just sneak back into bed? My question was answered for me when my toddler bursted through the door, bedpan in hand, saying, “mommy, me can make you feel better with my doctor kit.” How could I say no to that? I washed my hands and face really well and headed out to see the doctor. First, he had me lay down on a blanket, then he covered me with another one. Next, he put on his stethoscope and asked me to pull up my shirt so he could hear me breathe. After that, he took my blood pressure, looked into my eyes and ears (I told him he couldn’t check my temperature) and came to the conclusion I was sick. He gave me a shot, covered it with a band-aid and told me to get lots of rest. He sent me off to bed with a promise I’d call him on his doctor phone if I needed anything. What a good little doctor and how cute is that?

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It amazed me how much he’s paid attention at the doctor and it made me think about the importance of pretend play. I keep my toddlers toys seperated into play specific tubs (that’s an organization post I will share one day) and one of those tubs is the pretend tub. He has the doctor kit and a tool kit, he also has masks and superhero things like Hulk hands and a Thor hammer. The pretend tub also includes dress up clothes, which I think is an essential part of pretend play for girls and boys alike. Most of his outfits are geared towards boys, he picked them out himself. There’s an army guy, a swat team officer, a cowboy, a pirate, a racecar driver, firefighter and more, in fact,  he took over my nine year old daughters chef coat and hat that he wears when he play cooks in his kitchen or helps cook in mine. My son loves pretend play and I believe it has helped him learn, just look at the story above. So, here’s my list of why parents and caregivers should encourage pretend play.
1. It teaches kids to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. My daughters favorite pretend play from toddler to even now hass ben being Doc McStuffins, before the good doc existed. She could always be found with her lab coat on working on her stuffed animals, still can, and when we visit the Portland Childrens Museum, the veterinary station is her favorite place to play. Don’t tell anyone, but she still secretly watches Doc McStuffins. What does she want to be when she grows up? A veterinarian. This may change as she gets older, but because she’s been encouraged through pretend play, she believes she can do it. FYI, the thing I pretended to be the most as a kid was a stay-at-home-mom.
2. It helps them figure out who they are and what they enjoy. Let your kids pick out their own pretend play toys. My son picked out everything is his tub himself and besides all that rough and tough hero stuff, he has a butterfly mask as well as various animal masks. When he’s the butterfly he dances around the room and makes flutter noises. My son has always been very particular about what he likes and doesn’t like, but even if your child isn’t as decisive as mine, I think it’s healthy to let our children make decisions on things, especially pretend play toys.
3. It’s a great way for your kids to learn without them feeling like it’s a lesson. I’m not sure about you, but I try to do atleast one lesson a day with my toddler. Unfortunately unless it’s counting or color coding M&Ms which he knows he gets to eat or something messy, it’s not always easy to get an almost three year old to sit still for “school.” But, stop into the play kitchen or throw on an animal nose and pretend you’re at the farm and before you know it, you’ve just spent an hour teaching your toddler.
4. It encourages kids to use their imaginations. In the digital world we live in, kids don’t have to have the vivid imaginations we did as kids since, there is probably an app to do that for them. However, pretend play activities get the brain motor going and require the kiddos to really dig into their imagination. The other day, my son was baking a cake in his play kitchen and when it was done he brought me a pot holder to get it out and said, “mommy be careful, it’s really hot.” Another time when he was playing house with his sister, her the baby and him the dad, he fed her then announced he was off to work at the office. The office ended up being our house computer which he sat down at and pretended to type. I love seeing him continue to develop his brain in such imaginative ways.
5. It encourages families to play together. Having three kids with a wide age range often means they don’t like to play together. However, pretend play even gets my teenage son, whose enjoyment consists of video games, movies and music, down on my toddlers level and involved in play. They play firefighters and army guys and each time my toddler learns something new and ends the play being so proud that older brother played with him. Pretend play is simple and it’s a on activity you put yourself into so, parents and brothers and sisters of all ages can enjoy it together.

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The best thing about pretend play? It can be cheap or homemade. Many of my sons outfits came from the Dollar Tree, I found color yourself masks at Michaels for $1 each and his kitchen was a garage sale find. I always keep an eye out at the thrift store for anything we can add to the tub. Even the items that aren’t cheap are such a great investment in your child and their future. What about you? I’d love to hear fun stories about your children’s pretend play. Please share them with me in the comment section.

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