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by Jennifer Quinonez, Los Angeles Universal Preschool
A common question from an adult to a child is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Ask any parent, and they’ll tell you they envision their little ones growing up and becoming the president of the United States, a doctor, a teacher or an astronaut. But in order to help kids reach their dreams, it’s crucial for parents and educators to encourage a child to use their imagination and play.
Pretend or dramatic play offers a variety of learning opportunities for children in their early years, because educators say they learn best through playtime. The brain of a 4-year-old is constantly making connections, twice as many as a typical adult’s. And make believe activities play a big role in developing a child’s way of understanding the world around them.
“Children love to explore, create and imagine, so it’s best for parents to first role model good behavior at home, because children imitate what they see on an everyday basis,” says Celia C. Ayala, Ph.D., CEO for Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP). “Parents should encourage their child to use his or her imagination during playtime, which will greatly help build important school readiness skills.”
Another place for a child to engage in active pretend play is a high-quality preschool program, where it serves is a tool to help develop skills in a fun and engaging way.
Pretend Play helps children foster the following:
A high-quality preschool program will provide a dramatic play area filled with all sorts of equipment such as a telephone, dolls, dress-up clothes and hats, jewelry, cameras, or a pint sized kitchen filled with pots pans and plastic pretend food.
Research shows that children who are regularly involved in positive pretend play will most likely carry the skills they develop with them for the rest of their lives. So although many might think make believe play is just “playtime,” it’s important for adults to realize that it’s important for the proper development of their child.
The nonprofit Los Angeles Universal Preschool provides an educational and nurturing preschool environment where teachers follow a curriculum based on play to develop a child’s cognitive, motor, social and emotional skills. For more information on LAUP’s preschool program, provided to families in Los Angeles County at little or no charge regardless of income, call 1-866-675-5400 or visit www.laup.net.
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