The benefits of pretend play for young kids

Wednesday, 19 June 2019
The benefits of pretend play for young kids

Pretend play is vital for the development of social skills and learning. Research shows that pretend play is crucial to language and narrative skills in young children.

Pretend play is vital for social skills and learning

Did you know that pretend play is vital for the development of social skills and learning? Research shows that pretend play is crucial to language and narrative skills in young children. Narrative skills include being able to describe things, to tell events in order, and to retell stories. Narrative enables children to problem solve properly, make predictions about what is going to happen next and to understand how to make a story.  Pretend play is also important for developing friendships, emotional regulation, self-organisation, reasoning skills and creativity.

Pretend play helps to develop a child's fine motor skills

Why are fine motor skills important? Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles in our hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. They include actions like grasping, holding, pressing, or using a pincer grip (holding something between the fore-finger and thumb).

Fine motor skills are vital for doing everyday activities like buttoning up a shirt, using utensils to eat, tying shoelaces, cutting with scissors and writing. As adults, we use fine motor skills so often in our daily lives that it’s easy to take them for granted. 

Children develop fine motor skills at very different rates, so try not to compare your child's fine motor skills against other children. If you've worried about your child's fine motor skills and think that they might not be developing properly, consider seeing an Inspiro children's occupational therapist. 

Go here to learn 10 ways to develop your child's fine motor skills or make one of these 7 fun things together to help improve their fine motor skills

Pretend play can help develop gross motor skills

Pretend play can also be beneficial in developing a child's gross motor skills. The importance of gross motor (physical) skills development in pre-schoolers is continually underestimated. Learn more about what gross motor skills are here.

Pretend play supports a healthy parent-child relationship

pretend play needed for children's development

When caregivers participate in pretend play they support a healthy parent-child relationship. Children who have challenges in pretend play tend to have challenges in transitioning from solitary play, to parallel play, and then social play.

Children who show non-social or “withdrawn” play behaviours during preschool are at greater risk of peer rejection, social anxiety and negative self-esteem in later childhood, as well as having negative implications for their academic success.



7 fun things to make with your kids to help improve their fine motor skills

Why "active play" is vital for pre-school kids - 10 play tips

Inspiro's Occupational Therapists can help your child develop their fine motor skills: Find out about our occupational therapy for children

Children need fine motor skills: 10 ways to improve your child’s fine motor skills

It's not fun when your child has a tantrum in public: 6 ways to tame children's tantrums


Types of children's play:

Different types of children's play for development

  • Solitary play is when the child is alone and maintains focus on their activity. They are uninterested in or is unaware of what others are doing. This type of play is more common in younger children (age 2–3).
  • Parallel play is a form of play in which children play next to each other, but do not try to influence one another's behavior. Children usually play alone during parallel play but are interested in what other children are doing.
  • Social play is any play in which children interact with each other. The play is structured (meaning there are rules to follow) and it may include  pretend or imagination.


2 in 3 preschoolers are at risk


Play at 3 years old

By the age of three, a child should be reconstructing events they have experienced while they are playing, like being in an aeroplane. They should also be re-creating scripts they have seen from TV programs or stories, such as pirates, not just play related to feeding, sleeping, dressing and cooking.

Playing with imaginary characters and objects.

A three year old should also be able to easily substitute an object for something else and use it in an imaginary way. They might decide a toilet roll is a telescope, or a blanket is a pond. We should see references to imaginary characters and objects, such as an invisible birthday cake on a plate, or an invisible alien chasing them. A three year old should treat a doll or teddy as though it is alive and can walk, talk, eat and interact with other toys or imaginary characters.

These skills enable pre-schoolers to begin some wonderful collaborative play with peers, promoting healthy social participation at preschool and primary school.

Play promotes healthy social participation.


6 tips for healthy kids' feet

There are 52 bones in your child's feet - that's nearly a quarter of the bones in their body! These small bones continue to grow until adulthood. Untreated and easy to miss foot conditions can lead to knee, hip and back pain; and can seriously affect your child’s development and posture. Shoes and socks that don’t fit properly can cause pain. So, it’s important check your child’s feet and treat any problems as early as possible.

See 6 tips for healthy kids feet from our podiatrists here.

Inspiro has experts who can help preschool kids improve their fine motor skills and get ready for school

If you know a child who will benefit from support to develop pretend play skills, contact us on 9028 0153. We provide support for children and their families up to school attendance. 

Inspiro's children's occupational therapists (OT) support children, with their families, to become more independent in everyday activities. Our experts help children with their hand skills (holding a pencil, drawing, cutting with scissors, playing with small objects etc), body skills (balancing, jumping, catching a ball, running etc) and self-care skills (dressing, toileting and sleeping etc). They will also support a child’s ability to concentrate, pay attention and manage sensory sensitivities.

6 ways to tame tantrums


About Inspiro

Inspiro is a local, non-profit community health service that provides dental, dietetics / nutrition, podiatry, physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, diabetes education, counselling, exercise physiology, social and family support services from our Lilydale, Belgrave and Healesville clinics and various community venues. 

We have dentists to look at your teeth, health professionals to help get you moving and active, health services for children and older people, support if you are living with ongoing illness, podiatrists to look at your feet, someone to talk to about your mental health, and many other services to help you reach your own health goals.


INSPIRO LILYDALE: 17 Clarke St, Lilydale

INSPIRO BELGRAVE:  1616-1624 Burwood Highway, Belgrave

INSPIRO HEALESVILLE: 333 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville

Call us on 03 9028 0153

Inspiro local services for kids and and young adults

Inspiro offers a range of services for kids and young adults including:

1.  Free youth and family counselling

Inspiro provides a free youth counselling service for young people aged between 12 to 25 years who live, work or study in the Yarra Ranges. Our counsellors help young people who may be dealing with depression, anxiety, bullying, harassment or difficult relationships, to gain the confidence and skills to do things differently.

2.  Space4Us

A peer support program for young people age 13 to 18 years, who have a family member with a mental illness.

3.  Autism Spectrum Kids: 

A social development skills program for young people age 12 - 17 years on the Autism Spectrum,

4.  Occupational therapy for children

Child occupational therapists support children to become more independent in everyday activities. Our therapists help children with hand skills (holding a pencil, cutting), body skills (balancing, catching a ball) and self-care skills (dressing, toileting and sleeping). They can also help if a child has trouble with concentration or managing the information they receive through their senses.

5.  Speech therapy for children (and adults)

Inspiro provides speech therapy for children. We are based in Belgrave and Lilydale. Our Children's Speech Therapist works with children aged up to school entry who are experiencing speech related problems.

These may include articulation (speech sounds); fluency (stuttering); use of expressive language; and understanding language. 

6.  Free dental care for children age 12 and under

Give your child the best start in life with good dental care. It will help protect their teeth for decades to come and help prevent painful fillings and costly special dental work.

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Inspiro provides child paediatric occupational speech therapy and child and paediatric occupational therapy to the outer east and outer south eastern suburbs of Melbourne including but not limited to: Badger Creek, Bayswater, Bayswater North, Belgrave, Belgrave Heights, Belgrave South, Boronia, Chirnside Park, Coldstream, Croydon North, Croydon, Croydon Hills, East Warburton, Emerald, Ferny Creek, Healesville, Heathmont, Hoddles Creek, Kallista, Kalorama, Kilsyth South, Kilsyth, Launching Place, Lilydale, Lysterfield, Macclesfield, Menzies Creek, Millgrove, Monbulk, Montrose, Mooroolbark, Mount Dandenong, Mount Evelyn, Narre Warren East, Olinda, Ringwood, Ringwood North, Sassafras, Selby, Seville, Seville East, Silvan, Tecoma, The Patch, The Basin, Tremont, Upper Ferntree Gully, Upwey, Wandin, Wandin North, Warrandyte South, Warranwood, Warburton, Wesburn, Wonga Park, Woori Yallock, Yarra Valley, Yarra Glen, Yarra Junction and Yellingbo.