The other day as I was folding laundry, I received an invitation from my kindergarten daughter to a tea party. The invitation read, “You are invited to my tea party dress up. We will have fun! Thank’s Delaney.” (Her words exactly).
I certainly could not turn down that invitation. I entered the dining room where the host (Delaney) was dressed in her black patent shoes, a dress, white princess gloves, beautiful (play) beads, and a most glorious hat (flower girl hat that I wore in my older brother’s wedding).
I felt under-dressed for such an occasion, but nonetheless, I took the only empty seat available. The other seats were occupied by a bear, rabbit, a princess (doll), and a majestic horse. At each place setting was a plate, saucer, and a tea cup. We enjoyed many cups of imaginary tea, and jam and toast together, and had a great time as we wiled away an hour or so on a rainy afternoon.
But, besides being a fun time, this, and much of pretend play, is much more than mere fun. Experts generally agree that pretend play gives children practice in encountering social situations and in managing dialogue with others in these situations.
Pretend play allows children to try different methods of interacting with others. Even with our little tea party, Delaney gets a chance to learn more about sharing, listening, and even negotiating all skills that help any child’s social development.
Language gets developed when the child interacts, even while pretending. How done is the toast? How was the tea made? All these give opportunities for children to describe things and further develop language and vocabulary.
Whether the hostess at a tea party or the clerk of a pretend store, children’s self esteem gets a boost from pretend play. It is one of the few times that they can control the situation that they are in, and, as we all know, that feeling builds confidence.
But, probably the biggest benefit to pretend play is the opportunity to use and develop creativity and imagination. Because there are no rules, no boundaries and no expectations, children like Delaney can have a rabbit serve toast or a horse drink tea and ask for seconds.
Development of imagination and creativity can give children the courage to create new ideas and the chance to think in new ways, (or out of the box as the term is these days), which are positive life-long skills.
So, encourage your young child the next time they are pretending we may all benefit from it some day. Join in on a tea party, or a dinosaur hunt, or whatever the adventure is, and I am sure you won’t be disappointed. I certainly was not. No matter the age, allowing our creativity to emerge can be very healthy for all of us. We are never too old for a tea party.