The Importance of Playing Make-Believe

Playing make-believe is an important part of a child’s development. The reason for this is that young children learn by observing, imagining and doing. If you have ever seen your child do something like pick up a rock and pretend it’s an aeroplane zooming through the sky, or cover their eye with one hand and pretend they are a pirate with an eye-patch, what you are seeing is your child building skills in many essential developmental areas by using something to represent something else. Below are some ways in which pretend play can help your child:

1. Teaches Language and Communication Skills

If you have ever listened to your child engage in pretend play with their friends or toys, you would have probably noticed that we often hear our own words reflected in their play. That is because they learn by imitating. You most likely would have heard some words and phrases you never thought your child knew. Playing make-believe helps your child understand the power of language and make the connection between spoken and written language, a skill that will help them learn to read.

2. Helps Social and Emotional Development

When your child pretends to be someone else while playing, they are experimenting the social and emotional roles of life, while learning to walk in somebody else’s shoes. This teaches many important lessons. They learn how to take turns, share responsibility, problem solve and how to empathise. It is normal for a child to only see the world from their own point of view. It’s only through social and emotional development, do you learn to understand the feelings of others.

3. Develops Thinking, Learning and Problem-Solving Abilities

Playing make-believe provides your child with a range of problems to solve. It could be two children wanting to play the same role, or deciding on whether they want to build a castle or mansion to be doctors in. The point is this kind of debate encourages important cognitive thinking skills that they will use for the rest of their life.

4. Nurtures Imagination and Creativity

Research has shown that an important benefit of pretend play is how it enhances a child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and creativity. By engaging in a game of make-believe, children are given the chance to use their imagination to exercise their brain in creative thinking. This is a skill we require throughout life to solve problems, make plans and to discover and invent new things.

5. Enhances Physical Development

It is important to remember that aside from all the cognitive benefits pretend play has to offer, it also provides a great way for children to be active and develop their motor skills. Evidence shows that role playing games involving a bit or monitored rough and tumble can help in the development on the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that regulated behaviour. It also helps children to learn self-regulation and to understand when what behaviour is and isn’t appropriate.


At Angel’s Paradise, we support parents in the social development of their children by encouraging positive attitudes and behaviours.