068: Do I HAVE to pretend play with my child?

Pretty regularly I see posts in online parenting groups saying “My child loves to pretend, and they always want me to participate.  I dare not tell anyone else, but I CAN’T STAND PRETEND PLAY.  What should I do?”

In this final (unless something else catches my interest!) episode in our extended series on play, Dr. Ansley Gilpin of the University of Alabama helps us to do a deep dive into what children learn from pretend play, and specifically what they learn from fantasy play, which is pretend play regarding things that could not happen in real life (like making popcorn on Mars).

We’ll discuss the connection between fantasy play and children’s executive function, the problems with studying fantasy play, and the thing you’ve been waiting for: do you HAVE to do fantasy play with your child if you just can’t stand it (and what to do instead!)

If you missed other episodes in this series, you might want to check them out: we started out asking “what is the value of play?”, then we looked at the benefits of outdoor play and talked with Dr. Scott Sampson about his book How to Raise a Wild Child.  We wrapped up with outdoor play by trying to understand whether we should allow our children to take more risks.

 

References

Bergen, D. (2013). Does pretend play matter? Searching for Evidence: Comment on Lillard et al. (2013). Psychological Bulletin 139(1), 45-48.

Buchsbaum, D., Bridgers, S., Weisberg, D.S., & Gopnik, A. (2012). The power of possibility: Causal learning, counterfactual reasoning, and pretend play. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 367. 2202-2212.

Carlson, S.M., White, R.E., & Davis-Unger, A.C. (2014). Evidence for a relation between executive function and pretense representation in preschool children. Cognitive Development 29, 1-16.

Gilpin, A.T., Brown, MM., & Pierucci, J.M. (2015). Relations between fantasy orientation and emotion regulation in preschool. Early Education and Development 26(7), 920-932.

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Weisberg, D.S., & Golinkoff, R.M. (2013). Embracing complexity: Rethinking the relation between play and learning: Comment on Lillard et al. (2013). Psychological Bulletin 139(1), 35-39.

Hoffman, J.D., & Russ, S.W. (2016). Fostering pretend play skills and creativity in elementary school school girls: A group play intervention. Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts 10(1), 114-125.

Krasnor, L. R., & Pepler, D. J. (1980). The study of children’s play: Some suggested future directions. In K. H. Rubin (Ed.), Children’s play: New directions for child development (pp. 85–95). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lancy, D. F. (2015). The anthropology of childhood: Cherubs, chattel, changelings. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Li, J., Hestenes, L.L., & Wang, Y.C. (2016). Links between preschool children’s social skills and observed pretend play in outdoor childcare environments. Early Childhood Education Journal 44, 61-68.

Lillard, A. (2011). Mother-child fantasy play. In A. D. Pelligrini (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the development of play (pp. 284–295). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Lillard, A.S., Lerner, M.D., Hopkins, E.J., Dore, R.A., Smith, E.D., & Palmquist, C.M. (2013). The impact of pretend play on children’s development: A review of the evidence. Psychological Bulletin 139(1), 1-34.

Lillard, A.S., Hopkins, E.J., Dore, R.A., Palmquist, C.M., Lerner, M.D., & Smith, E.D. (2013). Concepts, theories, methods and reasons: Why do the children (pretend) play? Reply to Weisberg, Hirsh-Pasek and Golinkoff (2013); Bergen (2013); and Walker and Gopnik (2013). Psychological Bulletin 139(1), 49-52.

Ma, L., & Lillard, A. (2017). The evolutionary significance of pretend play: Two-year-olds’ interpretation of behavioral cues. Learning & Behavior 45, 441-448.

Paley, V. (2009). The importance of fantasy, fairness, and friends in children’s play: An interview with Vivian Gussin Paley. American Journal of Play 2(2), 121-138.

Pierucci, J.M., O’Brien, C.T., McInnis, M.A., Gilpin, A.T., & Barber, A.B. (2014). Fantasy orientation constructs and related executive function development in preschool: Developmental benefits to executive functions by being a fantasy-oriented child. International Journal of Behavioral Development 38(1), 62-69.

Singer, D.G., & Singer, J.L. (2013). Reflections on pretend play, imagination, and child development. Interview in American Journal of Play 6(1), 1-13.

Sutton-Smith, B., & Kelly-Byrne, D. (1984). The idealization of play. In P. K. Smith (Ed.), Play in animals and humans (pp. 305–321). Oxford, England: Blackwell.

Taggart, J., Heise, M.J., & Lillard, A.S. (2018). The real thing: Preschoolers prefer actual activities to pretend ones. Developmental Science 21, e12582.

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