"The wider the range of opportunities we offer children, the more intense will be their motivations and the richer their experiences."
The joy of children acting out real or imaginary events in pretend play provides an environment rich for learning. This was certainly our experience at our launch of Let's Pretend Play at the recent Early Childhood Play date. We are passionate about expanding pretend play opportunities from single pretend scenarios to combinations of play scenarios that complement each other and allow children to create more elaborate and extensive play scripts. We also know that occasionally a ‘bigger person’ can add increased creativity with gentle suggestions and extensions. So what did we see when we offered children of all different ages (and their parents) the scope to explore three of our play pods? Lots and lots of fun and talking, not to mention creativity!
A second tiny one stood out when she became completely fascinated by the display of tiny apples in the hotel reception. Initially happy to play and manipulate the apples in and out of the bowl, this soon changed to play in any other areas with the apples - so they were baked in the pizza oven and put in various designs on a nearby tray. A wonderful example of the conversation skill of ‘taunting’ was on display as she removed the apples once more from the hotel and walked away from mum, with glances over her shoulder to demonstrate that despite mum’s many requests to bring them back - mum was going to have to come and get them. So many examples of children’s imagination, creativity and capacity to attend for long periods of time in play were visible on the day.
Bodrova (2008) makes the point that developing ‘mature play’ is at considerable risk in our present environments for many reasons including the reduction in the numbers of children of a wide range of ages playing together;
‘in the past, most play existed in multi‐aged groups where children had an opportunity to learn from older ‘play experts’, practice their play skills with the peers of the same age and then pass their knowledge on to the ‘play novices’.
It was a highlight of our day to watch the play experts (mostly 7-9 year olds) not only staying engaged in complex play routines but encouraging the younger peers to extend their own roles, routines and conversations. We were so lucky to be a part of an amazing event and left even more inspired to continue to create structures that foster dramatic and extensive pretend play routines.