Tamariki learn many skills from pretend play, such as negotiating and co-operating. Whānau can encourage tamariki by asking questions and providing materials.

Read the paragraph about dressing up in Te Māhuri 1, page 13, and look at Maka on page 14 – she’s sitting in a box rowing with ‘oars’ of rolled-up paper.

Dressing up and pretending in this way are examples of tamariki using their imaginations.

Pātai atu ki te whānau:

  • What sort of pretending have you been noticing in your tamaiti?
  • What do you think your tamaiti was learning?

What can tamariki learn from pretend play?

Research shows there are many reasons why imaginative play is important for a child’s development. It helps them to:

  • understand that people have different thoughts and feelings – this is sometimes called having a ‘theory of mind’
  • have mental flexibility, which leads to creativity
  • think in different ways, such as using fantasy and symbols, integrating information from different contexts and coming up with different ideas
  • express a range of feelings
  • start learning self-regulation – showing less aggression, being able to wait to get what they want, speaking pleasantly and showing empathy
  • practise their communication skills through taking on different roles
  • learn how to negotiate – to give and take
  • co-operate and collaborate
  • learn to play fair
  • learn how to problem-solve.

So from this list it looks as though playing pretend games is linked to improved thinking, communicating and getting along with others.

How can whānau help tamariki?

Provide opportunities for pretend play by:

  • inviting their friends to play with them
  • encouraging tamariki to use things from home when they’re pretending
  • asking open-ended questions such as:
    • What do you think a … would wear?
    • What sort of gear would we need for that job?
    • What could you use for a …?
    • What would happen if we …?

Helpful resources for whānau