When you watch two three-year-olds preparing a meal at their kid-sized kitchen or taking their trucks for repair or cars to the car wash, you know that they are doing more than just playing. Their creative and inquisitive minds are bridging the real world with their pretend world as they invent stories, collaborate with a friend, take turns, and take on roles in their pretend world. Children practice story-telling as they invent characters and change the action. These scripts are building their language as they expand on their theme whether it is shopping, cooking, driving or taking a sail. Good story-tellers enjoy reading because they are interested in stories, and go on to be eager writers because they have been practicing inventing stories orally.

Beginning at 1 year of age, your child might pick up an empty cup and pretend to drink. At 15 months, she might offer that same drink to her teddy bear, now involving others in her pretend play. From 2 to 3 years of age, she will enjoy imitating your activities with miniature replicas of adult “toys” like a vacuum cleaner, lawn mower, or dare I say iron?? Kids like the noises of my toy iron but it makes most moms groan and say they don’t use one!

chilren's play pirate shipI had a gratifying experience with one of my favorite 2 1/2 year-old playmates, Ian, the other day. I had introduced him to the fun of pirates with Rub a Dub, Pirates of the Tub (see my full review under “reviews”) and the Mega Bloks My Pirate Ship. He couldn’t wait for me to arrive with my pirate ship and gang. His mom told me that after I had left the other day, she found him in a large basket, with a tiny wheel he had found, pretending to drive his pirate ship. Hooray! His imagination had been stimulated and he extended our play to his own creative plot. I suggested that mom gather a few more props to be available for him so he could lead the play and use his imagination. The next time I came to his house, there was the basket with an empty toilet paper tube for a telescope, a stuffed animal owl (hey a parrot wasn’t available) and a small wheel for driving his vessel. I always encourage parents to have props available to spark your child’s imagination. You are being the producer of his play, by putting out good props but not the director of his play–that is your child’s job! Stand back and enjoy the show.