The benefits of pretend play on children’s development

Not all play involves games of tag or jumping rope. You may have seen the term “make believe play”, “pretend play” or “imaginative play” before, but what does this really mean?

It might be a curious experience to watch a preschooler playing with blocks and talking to herself animatedly. As adults, we might think this feature of childhood is simply a phase of growth towards logical thinking. In 1962, psychologist Jean Piaget discovered that this “symbolic play”, although less sophisticated than playing with peers, sets the base for assimilating the adult world’s complexity. It’s the base for one of the characteristics that makes us human: imagination.

From around 3 to 7 years of age, children act fantasy stories that playfully express, explore, and process emotions and ideas. The benefits of pretend play have been extensively researched; here are some of them:

• Exercises the capacity to think from a different person’s point of view, and to understand that other people’s emotions and thoughts are separate and different from our own. It allows kids to get a sense of what others may be feeling, how they might react and, therefore, how to deal with interpersonal situations.
• Develops the capacities for narrative thought, logical sequencing and elaborate an experience into a story: with a beginning and end, order, and with social and emotional scenarios that coexist and may at times be at odds with each other.
• Allows children to safely feel and express anger, sadness, fear, and also gives them a way to control those feelings by steering the story onto familiar and happy outcomes. Russian developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky understood pretend play (like all social experiences) to be a major catalyst of development and self-regulation.
• As Erick Erikson assessed in 1950, make-believe play allows children to explore different social roles and lets them develop a more sophisticated sense of future. They are able to imagine endless courses of action in the present, intersect with other people, revisit important memories and anticipate possible outcomes for the future.
• Provides an early ground to learn and enact the rules of social life. When preschoolers play with peers in storylines constructed by their conjoined imaginations, they go through complex negotiations about the roles, settings, actions and conversations carried out inside the play. As Vygotsky studied, this demands to continually apply social conventions, cultural rules, and create models of cooperation.

If you are interested in the science behind the perks of pretend play, and its role in children’s development, you can check out this article by Scientific American:
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-need-for-pretend-play-in-child-development/

The role of imaginative play in your three-year-old’s cognitive and social development

Acclaimed child-development psychologist,Lev Vygotsky, proposed that imaginative play allows young children to start to understand the difference between objects in the real world and their symbols (be it words, other objects, or thoughts about the object in question). This undoubtedly sounds intuitive for an adult, but is no small task for a toddler’s developing brain!

Young children’s efforts at imaginative play reveal that recognizing the differences between mental symbols and the real-world objects is at first quite challenging. A group of researchers from the Department of Psychology at Emory University found that, before two years of age, kids can’t really engage in imaginative play with toys unless they are very realistic-looking or very familiar to them, like a toy telephone they can imitate mommy with. Between 2 and 3 years old, children start to imagine richer and more complex objects and situations without using lots of props and support from the real world.

Developmental psychologist Doris Bergern PhD, from the University of Miami in Ohio, review the scientific literature about the role of pretend play and the cognitive development of children. She found that high-quality pretend play is an important facilitator for abstract thinking and the ability to see things from different perspectives. It also enhances the child’s complex cognitive processes and can predict his social and linguistic competence.

The benefits of exercising a rich imagination during the first years of life are longstanding, and even withstand the trials of adulthood. In a 1990 published study, developmental psychologist Jerome Singer PhD proposed that there’s a link between the richness of imaginative play a person engaged in while being a toddler, and a greater “openness” of personality when they became adults. In other one of his studies, they followed 3 to 4-year-old kids for a year, and found that the more a child played make-believe, they were less impulsive, more cooperative, and better able to discriminate reality from fantasy when playing with peers.

How to encourage imaginative play? A good tip is to have minimally structured toys around so that your child can engage with them freely. Mary Ann Pulaski’s famous 1973 study found that kids as early as 4 years old responded differently to highly structured and specific toys than to simple ones. Minimal materials like drawing paper, crayons, paint, play-dough, blocks, rag dolls, vehicles, and costumes elicited significantly more varied themes to play, and richer stories than very specific toys or dolls. They also found that the older the kids were, they used less-realistic objects and transformed them when playing because their representational skills were more developed (ex. a 5-year-old pretending a box is a rocket going into space). So if your child is 3 or 4 you might want to have simpler toys representing commonplace objects around.

If you want to read more about pretend play, imagination, and its role in early childhood development, you can read an interview with child psychologists Dorothy and Jerome Singer here:
http://www.journalofplay.org/sites/www.journalofplay.org/files/pdf-articles/6-1-interview-relections-on-pretend-play.pdf

What you should know about Prenatal and Postnatal vitamins

About to expect a baby or just had a newborn? Chances are you’ll soon start looking for a prenatal or postnatal vitamin pack to get the nutrients the both of you need for good health. A healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs, however even if you are eating healthy, you may fall short on some key nutrients – which is where supplements come in.

During breastfeeding, your body needs more of all the nutrients that a well-balanced diet can offer. Taking prenatal vitamins even after pregnancy is a recommended option. They work well as postnatal vitamins, since your breast milk will continue to provide important nutrients for your baby. Make sure your supplements include essential nutrients such as folic acid, iron, Vitamin D, fish oil, and calcium.

How long should you take prenatal vitamins for?

It’s best to take prenatal vitamins throughout your entire pregnancy. Your healthcare provider may suggest continuing to take prenatal vitamins after the baby is born — especially if you’re breastfeeding.

Which specific nutrients are recommended during the postnatal period?

  • PRENATAL VITAMINS: Continuing to take prenatals while breastfeeding is a good way to provide nourishment for your baby. Most prenatal vitamins include around 20 crucial nutrients that help meet you and your baby’s nutritional needs. Be sure to look for fermented choline, methylfolate (a form of folic acid that can be more efficiently used by the body) and Vitamin 2, as some are not included in many prenatal formulations.

 

  • FISH OIL: Women tend to cut back on fish, a main source of omega-3s, during pregnancy or breastfeeding to avoid mercury. Fish oil is a great way to get these healthy fatty acids (such as DHA) which are necessary to maintain your cognitive health. These essential nutrients also support your little one’s brain health and nervous system.

 

  • CALCIUM: Some mothers are not getting the necessary levels of calcium from their regular diets (especially vegans and people who are lactose intolerant). Calcium supports your baby’s skeletal development and maintains your bone health. It’s important to keep your levels up with supplements, as the ability to absorb calcium decreases with age. Be sure to combine your calcium intake with vitamin D and K for better absorption.

 

Consider checking if your vitamins are gentle on the stomach! Some supplements are fermented with probiotics or yeast, making them easier to digest and less likely to cause nausea. We recommend you take them with a meal for optimal absorption.

If you’d like to get a postnatal or prenatal recommendation and your very own personalized daily vitamin pack delivered right to your door, try Care/of.

 

How can we foster self-control and self-regulation in our kids?

 

During your adventures in parenthood, you’ll come across a wide-range of typical baby and toddler moments that can basically come down to one thing: self-control or (most times) the lack of it. First off, when talking about self-control we’re referring to the ability to inhibit strong impulses (like running off or biting a friend). On the other hand, self-regulation is all about reducing the frequency and the intensity of those strong impulses by proper management (for instance the ability to resist sweets). In a way, self-regulation is what makes self-control possible. So, what can we do to teach our little ones these very important set of skills?

Developing self-control begins at birth and continues across your little one’s entire life. It’s critical in helping your baby succeed in school, his or her social environment and overall development. It will help your baby learn to cooperate, cope with frustration and resolve conflicts properly. When it comes to these skills, it’s your simple day to day interactions as parents that mean the most:

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