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Our Blog: June 11, 2012

When I Grow Up – Using Your Child’s Interests to Build Literacy Skills

Kids love pretending to be grown-ups with jobs. Jobs such as doctor, teacher, librarian, firefighter, scientist, vet, cook, artist or mail carrier. Encourage and enrich their pretend play and you’ll give your children beneficial literacy learning opportunities.

As you know, pretend play benefits children in so many ways – with social skills, vocabulary, imagination, self-control, resiliency and problem-solving.

A child’s pretend play begins around age two, but around age three, the child’s pretending becomes more complex. All the while, he is developing a literacy foundation through language and story. In fact, did you know that representational play, substituting one thing for another, is a very important skill for a child’s future reading success? If a child can pretend that a banana is a phone, he’ll have an easier time grasping the concept that letters represent sounds.

Pretend Play Tips

  • Create an open space that invites play.
  • Model for your kids how to pretend play. Sip from a cup of pretend tea, find a cave to use as a hideout, perform surgery on a stuffed animal . . . show your child the possibilities of using her imagination.
  • Eavesdrop while your child plays. When the playing seems to fade, help reignite it by suggesting a new prop, new setting and new problem. Ask, “What if . . .”

Pretend Play Job Ideas

Use these ideas to help your child get started playing. Sometimes all it takes is an idea and a child will spend hours in imaginative play. Use the jobs your child sees in his life or reads in stories. What else could you add to this list?

office worker
mail carrier

Add Props

Kids love dress-up clothes; it helps get them into their play roles. Build a dress-up clothes collection and a props box. Here are some prop ideas to get you started.

play food
medical kit
stuffed animals
cardboard boxes
play money

Add Books

Read picture books and nonfiction books to build your child’s background knowledge. Not only does this give your child more information, it also teaches him new vocabulary words. He can learn that artists display artwork in galleries and that veterinarians use X-ray machines. Imagine how the new information will expand his imaginative play!

Draw and Write

Have your child draw herself dressed up and doing the job. Then let her narrate a story for you to write to accompany her drawing. Say, “What sounds do you hear?” Help her listen for the sounds and use invented spelling to write the letters in the word.

Good Job

Science tells us that children learn by playing. The more you encourage this fun job pretend play, the more successful your child will be in reading and writing. So pat yourself on the back and say, “Good job!”

About the Author

Melissa Taylor

Melissa Taylor is a freelance writer, award-winning educational blogger at Imagination Soup, award-winning teacher with an M.A. in education, and a mom of two girls.