Pretend play encourages creativity, develops language skills, and introduces new concepts and ideas. Helping your preschooler learn doesn't have to mean breaking out the workbooks and flash cards. There are so many opportunities to learn through PLAY!
Here are three fun pretend play ideas that will not only inspire imagination, but teach your child new concepts and help develop a variety of skills.
Concepts: healthy food choices/food groups, money
Skills: classifying and sorting, counting
Set up a pretend store using play food, or items from your pantry. As you set up the store, help your child group and sort the food. Talk about the food items together and teach the names of any new or unfamiliar foods. As you play, take turns being the shopper and the cashier.
As your child shops, talk about the items he/she is "purchasing." Ask your child if the food is a healthy or unhealthy food choice. Help your child think about what the items could be used for, and/or what else your child might need. For example, if s/he "buys" an apple, say, "You're buying an apple. You could make a fruit salad. What else could we put in a fruit salad?"
Playing store is a great opportunity to introduce money. Introduce the concepts of "prices" and "buying and selling." Practice counting dollar bills or coins together to "pay" for the items. As you help your child "check out" from the store, use the names of coins. By introducing vocabulary and basic ideas regarding money, you will be helping to build the foundation for mathematical concepts your child will learn in kindergarten and first grade.
Concepts: the mail system, delivery
Skills: pre-writing, name/letter recognition, pre-reading
Get started by helping your child "write" letters or draw pictures to "mail" to other family members. Writing at this stage includes scribbling, lines, pictures, etc. Help your child put the mail into envelopes. You can use a sticker for a stamp, showing your child where to place it. Help your child address the mail. If your child is able to copy letters, help him or her write the names of family members. If s/he is not able to form letters, simply write the names in front of your child, naming each letter as you write it.
Set up "mailboxes" for each member of the family. Shoe boxes or paper lunch bags work well. Clearly label each mailbox with the names. When it is time to deliver the mail, help your child match the names on the letters with the names on the mailboxes.
Skills: fine motor, describing/explaining, pre-writing, communication
Build your child's confidence and let him or her build on creativity skills by setting up a "museum" together. Start by deciding what type of museum you'd like to create, and gather your supplies. Help your child group items into "exhibits." Some ideas include a plastic dinosaur exhibit, other animal exhibits, science experiments, water play, etc.
Another idea is to allow your child to experiment and play with several different art mediums. Draw pictures. Paint. Sculpt. Hang your child's artwork around the home. Help your child give each piece of art a name.
Have your child pretend to be the museum docent. Allow your child to guide you (and other family members) through the museum, telling you about each piece of art or exhibit. Encourage him or her to give as much information as s/he can.
Helping your preschooler learn is as easy as talking and playing together. Have fun watching your child's creativity and imagination blossom as you enjoy pretend-play together.