The Power of Pretending

The Little Wonders Pre-School class used loose parts like stumps, play dough, and branches to create a dinosaur habitat. In doing so, this sparked the students’ imagination to act out the lives of dinosaurs by explaining what they ate, where they lived, and what the dinosaurs did through out the day.


Pretend play is very powerful. It not only requires imagination, but intelligence too. It nurtures social interaction, invites sensory play, and encourages dialogue into their exploration of dinosaur life. In Reggio Emilia-based education environment is the third teacher. This motivates the children to search every day to understand something of their interest in order to grasp a piece of life. These are all components for developing healthy, intelligent minds!

In this setting the children engaged with their social environment. The children observed each other interacting with the dinosaurs. Not only were the students trying to envision the life of a dinosaur from their perspective but from their classmates as well which added to the richness of their imaginary play. This type of play gave the children opportunities to develop language proficiency. By interacting with other children they practiced communicating their ideas and thoughts aloud to others. These simple communication skills will help the children for the rest of their lives because they will be able to not only speak their minds but they will know how to communicate a message to another person in a positive and effective manor.

IMG_9004The more engaged the children were in pretend play the richer the exploration became. As the children spent more time creating roles through the lives of dinosaurs it instigated dialogue between the children to ask more questions from their own exploration. Loris Malaguzzi, founder of the Reggio Emilia learning philosophy said, “Once children are helped to perceive themselves as authors or inventors, once they are helped to discover the pleasure of inquiry, their motivation and interest explode.” Utilizing stumps, play dough, branches, and dinosaur figures invited the imaginations of the children to create a tangible and complex learning environment. These physical objects allowed the children to be in charge of their play. The play dough was a great sensory tool because the children were able to create symbolic materials to represent various roles of dinosaur life. This exploration used the children’s senses to learn and retain information on dinosaurs by listening to each other’s dialogue (hearing), seeing and touching material, and by moving the objects to create a complex and educational hands-on learning experience.



This active learning experience through role-play provided the students a better understanding of what dinosaur life was like but also helped the children develop their communication skills. The children will be able to use and apply such skills to other situations when working and conversing with other people in an educational and professional environment for the rest of their lives.

How do you encourage pretend play at home? Share your stories, experiences with us below!




To learn more on the role of pretend play in children’s cognitive development click here: Early Childhood Research and Practice 



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