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Our Blog: April 16, 2012

Play Power

toddler, children, dramatic play, early childhood education Neuroscientists say that the noggin power required to play tea party – or any other kind of pretend play – is very complex. Here’s what it takes: The desire to play nicely with friends. The skills to follow the social “rules” of the party. The ability to communicate. And last but certainly not least, the willingness to wait patiently until everyone is served before you get to scarf down yummy treats.

Bottom line: Dramatic play helps your child learn how to be a friend, how to learn in school, and how to solve problems.

It’s not just a tea party.

That’s why dramatic play is so important – it’s your child’s way of learning and rehearsing all the knowledge she’s accumulating. So while she’s learning to play, she’s playing to learn.

Parents can help. Don’t fall for the pressure to have your preschooler doing “real academics.” Worksheets and homework don’t build creativity. Instead, catch your child in the act of playacting. Ask questions about the main characters. “What’s her name?” “Who else is playing?” “What are you wearing?” “How does that feel?” “What’s next?” You’re helping expand her play by using a powerful parenting technique: Scaffolding.

By asking questions and helping out – but not taking over – you create the next handhold for your child to grab in learning.

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.