Play is the work of childhood. - Jean Piaget
Jean Piaget was a 20th Century psychologist known for his research and theories on child development. One of the core beliefs of Piaget’s theory on child development was that there are four stages that children progress through intellectually throughout childhood. These stages include:
Sensorimotor stage from birth to age 2
Preoperational stage from ages 2 to 7
Concrete operational stage from ages 7 to 11
Formal operational stage from 12 to adulthood
Today, I’d like to focus on the importance of pretend play for children between the ages of 2 and 7 or children in the Preoperational Stage.
During the Preoperational Stage of cognitive development a child’s brain is rapidly developing the ability for symbolic thinking, they are beginning to be able to talk beyond their immediate experiences, and they are not able to think logically like an adult.
This is why play and specifically pretend play is so important for our littles during this developmental stage, around the ages of 2-7. Our kids need experiences, so they can practice them and cement them into their memories. During this time when kids may not be going out as much as they have in prior years, it’s even more important that they gain exposure to these experiences through reading books with their parents, bringing the books to life through play opportunities, and talking about the books with their parents.
Some simple ways to intentionally add this type of play into your child’s routine could include having a set time each day where you read that is NOT right before bed, thus allowing them the time afterwards to begin playing and incorporating those new ideas into their play.
Another way to build this into your routine is with Broccoli Boxes: Sensory Kits for Kits. Have a time during the day, where you pull out a Broccoli Box, read the story together, play together for a couple of minutes, and then allow your child to play independently. My favorite time to do this is right before I start cooking dinner, so then while I cook Little Man can sit at the counter and play with his Broccoli Box and then we can still talk and be near each other, while I cook and he plays.
If you’d like to watch the Live where I briefly talked about the importance of play you can do that here (skip the first 30 seconds to a minute where I’m stumbling over my words and getting comfortable in front of the camera…):