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Celebrate Pretend Play

Make-believe really matters, so encourage and support your child's imaginative play.

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Q: Both my 4 year old and my 6 year old are fascinated with costumes and role-playing. Is this typical of their developmental stage? If so, why do they crave "trying on" other identities so much?

A: Not only is your children's behavior not worrisome, it is cause for celebration, a sign of their healthy development, and a reason to be optimistic about their continuing social, emotional, and intellectual growth. So I am grateful to you for asking the question; for it gives us an opportunity to share the good news about pretend play with other parents. Many people continue to view it as frivolous, seeking to substitute rote academic exercises for "just play." That is an unfortunate cultural error, probably compounded now by our current focus on educational standards. The fact is what young children truly need is an opportunity for richer and richer pretend play, for it's an avenue to discovering what it feels like to be someone other than one's self. A well-developed capacity to put one's self in another person's place is a predictor of success;