As Speech-Language Pathologists, pretend play is one of our favorite activities to support language development. Pretend play has a number of great benefits for children’s development of language skills.

Several key benefits are outlined below:

Building Conversational Skills

Language development requires the ability to think symbolically, or to use one object to represent another. Children who are beginning to use toys symbolically, like pretending to eat with a spoon, or pretending a banana is a phone, are also developing the ability to use words to represent actions or objects.

Expanding Vocabulary

Because pretend play is imaginative and not restricted to what’s happening in the immediate environment, it’s a great way to build vocabulary skills. Children are able to use and explore words and phrases that they haven’t necessarily seen or experienced before (e.g., dragons, unicorns, a soccer tournament, a veterinary hospital).

pretend play
a girl and her mom are laughing at a book

Collaboration

Pretend play is a good way to build cooperation and back-and-forth interaction. Children learn to listen to and expand on others’ ideas, or collaborate and compromise to come up with a shared idea.

Perspective-taking 

Imaginative play, especially role-playing activities, build and nurture the ability to understand the thoughts, feelings, and actions of others. 

Problem-solving

Because pretend play can take so many different forms and the trajectory constantly changes, it is an important way for children to learn about if/then or hypothetical scenarios.

Some of our favorite toys and activities for pretend play include:

  • Animals, Little People, dolls, or anything that the child can use as a “companion”
  • Puppets
  • Pretend food, pots/pans, and utensils
  • Blocks and play-doh for more open-ended imaginative play
  • Dress-up clothes or hats for encouraging role-play in later stages

Blog post written by Kelly Goad, MA, CCC-SLP

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