Pretend play can be powerful because reality can be suspended. By suspending reality, children can level the playing field and even feel that they have the advantage. After all, though children can be very wise and insightful at times, there are some real frustrations that go along with being a child, namely being younger, smaller, weaker, and less competent than adults.
Even if all the adults around a child are caring, supportive, and meeting the child’s needs, any child feels powerless at times. Think about the shot at the doctor’s office, the sit-still rules at school, and the bedtime requirements at home. Giving children lots of time to play and reverse roles suspends reality and lets them be in charge. Children need to sometimes take a more powerful role, whether it be the hero, princess, or perfect student.
If allowed, children will deal with what they feel are injustices by using play to act out and create a new, improved reality. In the new reality during play, children can reverse roles, so they play the part of the doctor, teacher, or parent. Pre-teenage children may take on the role of adolescent, and the adolescent may take on the role of adult.
Reversing roles can be particularly helpful for restoring a child’s sense of confidence as well as overcoming fears and inhibitions. Sometimes all a parent needs to do is provide a space to play. Other times a child may need a parent to be the responsive audience or one of the actors in the process of reversing roles. If you allow your child to be the leader in the process of reversing roles, you will soon learn what your role is to be in the pretend play scenario.
When children are allowed to act out a scene in their drama by suspending reality, they feel and sense themselves in a new way. Transformational shifts can occur. We, the parents, just need to unplug, listen, and be available.
More to consider: The benefits of pretend play . . .
Dramatic play stimulates intellectual development. In addition, pretend play supports:
Social and language skills
Creativity and imagination