Pretend Play Can Help Children Manage Their Emotions: Study
Continue to encourage your child whenever they're enthusiastic about dressing up or pretend play and maybe even give some time to join in all the fun.
Giving kids opportunities to participate in imaginative play enables them to broaden their bright minds and creativity. Playing as wizards or superheroes amongst themselves may appeal to adults as just simple childish antics, but as it turns out, it plays a crucial role in child development.
The importance of pretend play during childhood may even have positive effects on how your child can perceive emotions, according to a study published in the British Journal of Psychology. Researchers found that using pretend play as a teaching tool helps children in improving their emotional skills and build better relationships with teachers and their friends at school.
“Research has shown that these skills also facilitate their ability to focus on learning, and their academic results are better a few years later,” said Sylvie Richard, a PhD student in developmental psychology in UNIGE.
Learning Through Pretend Play
For the study, researchers conducted a structured curriculum with pretend play sessions involving more systemised teaching or learning phases. Five HarmoS second-year classes in the Swiss canton of Valais were analysed for their findings.
There were 11 sessions overall taught by 5 teachers for one session per week that lasted around an hour. Beforehand, the teachers were trained for approximately 20 hours regarding socio-emotional competences and how they can support kids during pretend play.
A total of 79 children took part in sessions that included activities in terms of scenarios, roles, languages, symbolic use of props and playing time. The teachers were also involved during the play sessions as they gave the students challenges such as asking them to pretend play bursting with joy or solve an interpersonal problem.
There was also a group of control teachers and students so that researchers would be able to compare the progress of the kids among the five classes.
“It was important that the control group also did the pretend play, although not necessarily focused on scenarios related to socio-emotional competences,” said Richard.
Benefits of Pretend Play
The results showed that there was an improvement among the children in recognising their emotions, particularly anger. It was also found that through pretend play, the children’s emotional vocabularies were enhanced.
“The results suggest, on the one hand, that it’s essential to design a teaching system that takes socio-emotional competencies and pretend play into account as areas of knowledge that should be taught. On the other hand, the study shows that using this kind of play as a teaching tool helps children experiment, re-apply themselves, and test and take ownership of these competencies,” explained Professor Édouard Gentaz from UNIGE’s Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences.