Do my toddlers play pretend? Yes. But pretend looks a lot different in our home now than when T was younger and how it may look in some other homes–a reminder that neither is “wrong”, just different.
When T was younger, when I was still learning about Montessori, I was in a different place–mentally and financially. Being single and having disposable income, I spoiled him.
If he showed interest in “making” coffee and serving family, I bought him a coffee maker set from Melissa and Doug as well as pastries. When he enjoyed riding a horse at the local farm, I got him a toy riding horse. When T wanted to be a superhero, I got him a costume set; when he was banging pans, I got him a drum set. I’m sharing to explain the ridiculousness of my actions which I didn’t realize until my apartment was filled.
So what was the problem? Not only was I spoiling him, but I was taking away his ability to imagine. Growing up, my sister and I constantly played pretend. We pretended that weeds were crops that we needed to can for winter, that pans were drums, that towels were capes, blocks were furniture sets for our barbies and so much more.
As a child, when you want to pretend you are a chef and the chair seat becomes your stovetop, using your imagination, you just solved a problem. Hey, it may not have been world hunger, but you solved a problem you faced.
Not only does imagination help develop the ability to problem solve and new idea, but creativity, language and social growth. To think that I was taking that from T.
“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.”–Maria Montessori
Having realized what happened with T, I haven’t made that mistake with E and V. While I include them in practical life chores and such, they still like to pretend. As we strive towards a homesteading life we are constantly in the kitchen, but they still like to pretend they are making sourdough throughout the day. They will roll a ball like they are creating a ball of dough to ferment for crackers and roll our playdough with a rolling pin like they would for noodles. I don’t try to prevent pretend play that includes their real tool as it’s practice, as long as they are being used appropriately.
There are times I notice them pretending to make hot spirulina and ask if they’d like to make so for real, I can’t make sourdough all day, my poor hands just couldn’t handle it, haha. They often don’t and just want to pretend and “sip” away.
And I’m not saying you shouldn’t purchase items for your child to play pretend with. I’m just sharing that I found myself overdoing it. Realizing what I did in the past, as well as having studied Montessori more in-depth, we are doing things a little differently now. I also have no intention of purchasing items specifically for pretend play and part of the, to be honest, is that I don’t know if I’d know the line when it’s too much again. And, as we study about how it was for children in the 1800s, it really makes me realize that we already have so much.
So what do the girls have? They have a farm of realistic-looking Schleich animals because truth be told, I just don’t see us doing that type of homesteading. They have a dollhouse with wooden dolls. But they also have a lot of open-ended items (like a rainbow and blocks) that allows them to create whatever it is they can think up.
While I enjoy pretending with E and V, I try really hard to let them lead. For instance, if they hand me a sheep for the farm, I ask what it should do or go. I want to encourage their creativity and language as they explain.
While we still have a functional kitchen and don’t plan on providing pretend food, if your child is really into play kitchens, don’t let what we do, or another, prevent you from following your child’s joy. If their interest is horses or superheroes, do what works best for your family.
What does pretend play look like in your home?
“Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and strength, use it to create.”—Dr. Maria Montessori
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