Make believe play

Make believe play

Make believe play

Date posted: June 21, 2013

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein

When children are engaged in fantasy or pretend play, they are doing more than using their imagination. They’re strengthening other skills, including language, problem-solving, empathy, and self-regulation. And, they’re having fun!


A child’s work: the importance of fantasy play.
Vivian Gussin Paley. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.
Through observations of children in their role-playing and storytelling, this book examines how fantasy play is a natural mode of learning that allows children to construct meaning in their worlds. It makes the case for the importance of fantasy play in the psychological, intellectual, and social development of young children. Read an excerpt here.

Play=learning: how play motivates and enhances children’s cognitive and social-emotional growth.
Edited by Dorothy G. Singer, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
This book includes a chapter on Make-believe play: wellspring for development of self-regulation. This chapter is also available online.

To borrow either of these books, email



Mud pie muck about –Pretend cooking with language development tips for children ages 1 to 5.


Let’s pretend – Make-believe play ideas with language development tips for children ages 3 to5.



Assessing and scaffolding make-believe play – For early childhood professionals, this article from the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) looks at the five stages in make-believe play, and how teachers can support the development of mature make-believe play in preschoolers.

The Land of Make Believe: how and why to encourage pretend play – Looks at the benefits of pretend play, how it develops, and what parents can do to encourage it, from the Hanen Centre

The need for pretend play in child development – This article from Psychology Today presents in brief some of the research that demonstrates the benefits of imaginative play

Supporting make-believe play: make-believe play at home – Suggestions for parents to help children benefit most from make-believe play by setting up the environment so children can play, and by becoming their child’s play partner and mentor. Ideas are organized by age group: 1 to3, 3 to 5, and 5 and older.

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