play quote

Pretend play is the child’s work. A child takes what they know and what they have seen and put it into practice. They pair movements and language to create scenarios that evolve and expand far beyond what they originally planned. There are direct correlations between play, the development of language, literacy and social skills.

Pretend play builds…


Pretend play give children opportunities to practice words they may not use very often. Their vocabulary words come from books, television shows, YouTube, what they have heard from their teachers, their peers and their parents (we should be careful of what we say!). Foster their vocabulary by having play activities around animals, occupations and places.


Studies have shown that children with a larger vocabulary are more successful in literacy learning. The foundational concept of literacy is symbolism; the idea that one object can stand for another. When our child uses a banana as a telephone or a bucket as a hat, they are building their understanding of symbolism. Symbolism comes before understanding the representation of letters or words. Play leads to reading.

Social Skills

During pretend play, a child takes on different roles, which not only gives them opportunities to practice vocabulary and symbolism, it also fosters emotions, turn talking, leadership and negotiation. Pretending to be a teacher, a firefighter, a pilot or a parent, all require adapting and using language to convey their feelings and actions. Many studies have shown that social skills and the understanding of emotions are critical in forming early friendships (Lillard, Learner, Hopkins, Dore, Smith, & Palmquist, 2013).

Make some time to pull a few household items together, plop on the floor and get silly. Let your child lead to you to their world of pretend play. For some great pretend play activities, explore these great resources…

Creative-DIY-Pretend-Play-CentersFantastic Fun & Learning

mrprintables-play-fruit-templatesMr. Printables

Playdough-and-LiteracyHome Literacy Blueprint

printablesMy Joy Filled Life

Lillard, A. S., Learner, M.D., Hopkins, E. J., Dore, R. A., Smith, E. D., & Palmquist, C. M. (2013). The Impact of Pretend Play of Children’s Development: A Review of the Evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 139(1), 1-34.


  1. It is so great to discover that what we did as kids was actually great for our development! If we are now intentionally giving children opportunities to “pretend play” we can make sure they are able to reap the benefits of these great activities.


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