Last week, a few teachers were observing the children in the dress up area when we overheard them talking about camping. The children were using their imagination to create a pretend campsite where they were gathering different foods to put together and pretending to sleep in sleeping bags. They laughed and giggled while they pretended to eat marshmallows around a campfire. To encourage the children to express their knowledge of camping in a different way (thus deepening their understanding of the topic), we provided them with paper and markers and asked them to draw what a camping area looks like and the tools a camping area needs. Below are a few of the items that were drawn and discussed:
- A backpack
- Hot dogs
- Sleeping bags
- Campout books
- A tent
- Something to sit around fire
Based on this discussion and the drawings, we provided the children with materials like tents, pillows, and blankets for the afternoon. Our goal was to encourage the children to pretend like they were camping; however their creativity far surpassed our expectations. They enjoyed lying in the tents and pretending to sleep, however once they saw the tents outside the door, they decided that they just had to build a campfire! Since we conveniently had several pieces of wood outside, the children worked together to organize the wood and other materials outside the classroom and create their own campfire. While we are more than willing to go above and beyond to let the children learn, we encouraged them to use their imaginations with the actual fire 😉
In order to create a campfire, the children gathered several pieces of warm colored paper and rolled it into a ball. After placing the “fire” in the middle of the wood pile, the texture differences were astounding! We discussed how the wood was rough, hard, flakey, and not easily moldable, while the paper was shiny, smooth, thin, brightly colored, and easily bendable. After their campfire was finished, the children gathered around and held their hands to their faces (pretending to be cold) and eventually sat around the campfire.
While this activity didn’t teach the children much about camping and survival, it was a wonderful exercise for pretend play. Studies across the globe have demonstrated the cognitive benefits associated with pretend play, like increases in language usage, organization, divergent thinking, ability to integrate emotion with cognition, and the expression of both positive and negative feelings. According to researchers, when children use toys to introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy. Moreover, several researchers have concluded that an important benefit of early pretend play is its enhancement of the child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and ultimately creativity. So why is pretend play important? It increases children’s imaginativeness, curiosity, and can help down the road when children are learning about complex mathematical concepts and reading advanced books!
“Imaginative play is a precursor of conceptual thought – in which possibilities are explored upon the inner ‘stage’ of a child’s imagination.”
– Erik Erikson
*We are hoping parents could bring materials that could help us in transforming our dress up area into a camping area. Please bring any and all materials; this would be of great help in continuing the project!