Early Childhood

Pretend Play for Preschoolers: Sometimes Play Just Needs a Nudge

Play is hard sometimes!

With this generation of children, sometimes play can be an elusive beast to attain. With the invention of iPads, cable television, and computer games, children have learned to be entertained with animated “tech-sitters”. While this is my opinion alone, I believe it to be true.

As I walk through early childhood classrooms, I often have conversations with preschoolers about pretend play. I am reminded of a conversation I had with a charismatic child named ShaQuilla. She was a bright-eyed 4-year-old with the world at her finger tips. I watched her play in the classroom water center for about five minutes. She was filling a blue cup with water and pouring it out as if it was nothing of interest to her. I pulled up a chair and asked to join her. We conversed about the water, the cup, and the water center in general. I asked “What are you thinking about?” She gave me a confused look. I asked the question again and she simply replied “There’s nothing to think about. It is water.” I asked other questions about the uses of water and the necessity of it in our world. As the conversation progressed, I realized that this sweet child did not know how to imagine something other than water. It hit me, right then and there,  pretend play for preschoolers isn’t something that might happen naturally: sometimes children just need a nudge on how to play.

With the ever-growing market of toys, animated games and applications, and mindless television, our children have lost the creativity in their sense of play. When I say lost, I don’t mean gone, it can be regained, and it will be beautiful.

Pretend Play in Mathematics

When it comes to play in mathematics, there are many avenues you can partake in to ensure children are attaining essential math understanding all while enjoying an activity playfully. You can offer up many activities that involve dramatic, cooperative, and constructive play to ensure children are exercising their creative muscles, all the while interacting in a playful mathematics situation!

pretend play for preschoolers in early ed

Take ShaQuilla for instance. The day after our conversation and my nudging her sense of creativity and pretend play at the water center, she walked in with her bright smile and went straight there. Her demeanor and bliss-filled attitude towards “it’s just water” had changed to a whole colony of penguins living on an iceberg that was floating in the sea. She used language such as “Mommy penguin is walking up to see daddy penguin” and “Baby penguin is sliding down the ice”. With just a little bit of nudging, she now has the world at her fingertips, imagination unleashed, and she is using mathematical language in a brilliant way!

To learn more about how you can utilize play with mathematics, check out In Their Own World: Grocery Store.

Click HERE for the downloadable resources for this article!


About ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education is dedicated to making learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible for all students with Pre-K and Elementary print and digital instructional materials, as well as professional learning for mathematics.

Jessica Bobo

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Jessica Bobo

ORIGO Education

ORIGO Education has partnered with educators for over 25 years to make math learning meaningful, enjoyable and accessible to all.

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