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Smiling little boy plays with toy car

Pretend Play

16th January 2017


On the surface pretend play looks easy –a simple, distracting activity children engage with to pass the time. But did you know play is actually incredibly complex? Did you also know some children struggle with pretend play and this can contribute to difficult to manage behaviours?

Pretend play begins when a child is around eighteen months. They will generally start to imitate drinking from a cup or pretending to sleep.   As children get older their play becomes more complex – with longer, more detailed stories, increased social interaction and the ability to pretend an object is something else (such as a tissue box being a plane).

The development of pretend play skills is actually incredibly important in teaching children how to think. It gives them a space where they can safely test their understanding of the world, solve problems and make sense of their experiences. It builds their social skills, as well as skills necessary for literacy in the education environment.

Some children may have difficulties with pretend play. When children have difficulties with pretend play you may notice:

  • Reliance on grown ups to think of what to do
  • Reliance on grown ups to think of what happens next in the story
  • Increased bashing or crashing to end a storydreamstime_xs_15700390
  • Hyperactivity or silliness
  • Movement seeking
  • Frustration and lashing out at their peers
  • Acting out ‘scripts’ from movies or tv shows

Children can be supported to learn how to play, through specialised, individual therapy. At Head Start Children’s Therapy Services we can work with your family to identify your child’s play strengths and areas they may find tricky. We then work with you to support play development so your child is confident in a range of environments.