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The Magic of Make Believe


By Aviva Patz

Parents have always wanted to provide their children with as much enrichment as they can. Today, that means even three- and four-year olds spend their days flitting from soccer to music to swim lessons with hardly a break in between. But the best research shows that what kids need most for optimum growth and development is good old-fashioned playtime, when they can use their blossoming imagination.

"Young children learn numerous skills through make-believe play," says Yale University child development expert Dorothy Singer, EdD, author of Make-Believe: Games & Activities for Imaginative Play (Magination Press). "They expand their vocabulary and creativity, they learn to use expressive language, they problem-solve and they use empathy."

Toddlers also use pretend-play to make sense of the world around them, trying on the roles of mom, teacher, mail carrier, chef and more. All you need to supply is a safe space, a block of uninterrupted time and a few props -- like dress-up clothes, basic art supplies, a cardboard box or laundry basket -- to get the party started. Here, an age-by-age guide to imaginative play, with tips on how you can further that play with your child.
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Categories: Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, Children,

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