Playing pretend games supports imagination and creativity. Tamariki benefit from opportunities to use descriptive language as whānau introduce new words. Pretend play supports development of empathy and is an opportunity to explore feelings and emotions.

Why do it?

  • First and foremost, pretending is a great way to develop a child’s imagination.
  • Young children benefit from the chance to use rich language and to try using new or different words. In this way they expand their vocabulary.
  • Pretend play helps to develop early empathy, which is the ability to see things from another person’s point of view.
  • It’s a chance to develop more complex thinking skills. An example of using symbolism is to say ‘this block is my phone’.
  • Pretend play lets children express positive and negative feelings and can be an opportunity to work through things that might be scary or troubling for them, for example going to the doctor or having a new sibling.
  • It helps them to practise self-regulation skills, like delayed gratification (being able to wait for their turn) and reduced aggression (not hitting to get what they want).
  • Taking on other roles helps them to develop their problem-solving and communication skills.

How to do it

  • Having some ‘dress up’ clothing will help children take on different roles.
  • Dress ups could include hats, bags, shirts, skirts, scarves, cloaks, tīpare, piupiu or doctors’ gear.
  • It’s also good to provide other props that can ‘double’ as several items, such as blocks and cartons.
  • Include soft toys or dolls, with things they might have, such as blankets, beds and prams.
  • Make time to relax and enjoy it — pretend play can carry on for some time.
  • A suitable space helps too, especially if your child wants to continue with the play later and doesn’t want to pack up yet. It’s great if what has been created can be left up for a day or two so they can play with it again.
  • Pretending can be complete fantasy and/or socio-dramatic play.

Using more te reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Make believe, pretend
Actor, performer
Arohaina Empathize, feel compassion
To frighten
Me whakaataata tāua Let's pretend
Me haere tāua mā runga tereina Let's go on the train
Kei te aha koe? What are you doing?
Ko wai ahau? Who am I?
Ko wai koe? Who are you?
Ko wai tō ingoa? What's your name?
He aha tēnei? What is this?
He aha ēnei? What are these?
Tangohia ō hū Take off your shoes
Kuhuna tō pōtae Put on your hat