For Social and Emotional Development

"Tip 112: January 2018 – Playing Make Believe "
   January, 2018

In their book Make Believe: Games and Activities to Foster Imaginative Play in Young Children, Dorothy and Jerome Singer stated that “Make-believe play is preparation for the adult ability to plan ahead and to anticipate practical consequences.  A childhood rich in fantasy play also lays the foundation for an adult life with well-developed imaginative and playful capacities, and with adaptive skills useful and necessary in dealing with a complex society.”  Make-believe can help to improve language development, memory, problem solving, creativity and critical thinking skills.  Research indicates that children who have well developed imaginations learn reading and vocabulary more rapidly. 

Infants: Touch Your Nose – Make-believe play involves physical activities that are related to the development of both gross and fine motor skills and body awareness.  As children use their bodies they refine and develop skills, which enable them to feel physically confident, secure and self-assured.  Ask infants to touch different parts of their bodies.   Nose - head - hair - ears - eyes - mouth - shoulder - toes - knees - chin.

Toddlers: Blow Up A Balloon – Make-believe can enable children to feel comfortable and in control of feelings by allowing the expression of unacceptable emotions in acceptable ways, and provide for peer problem-solving.  Have each toddler choose a partner to “blow up like a balloon.”  As the toddler blows on the partner’s back, the child who is pretending to be the balloon starts to get bigger and bigger and then floats around the room.  When all the “air” is let out of the balloon, down goes the child in a heap on the floor.  The toddlers now change places being the blower and balloon and start over.

Preschoolers: Hand Play with Partner – Imagery skills used in make-believe may play a key role later in vocabulary growth because words associated with pictures in the mind are remembered better than abstract terms.  By hearing their own words or those of their peers, children are in effect practicing vocabulary, learning new ways to express themselves, and picking up phrases of the language.  Have the preschoolers work with a partner in doing the following activities using their hands; sleeping, eating, bathing, climbing, swimming, hammering, cutting, and bouncing a ball.     

Creative children and adults are extremely responsive to their body states and are attuned to the details of their environment including sights, sounds, smells, and objects to touch and explore.  Phyllis Greenacre in her book The Childhood of the Artist describes creativity as having four basic characteristics. 

  1. A greater sensitivity to sensory stimulations.
  2. An unusual capacity of discerning the relationships among various stimuli.
  3. A predisposition to experience a wider range of emotions, and experience them more deeply than usual.
  4. An ability to express reactions to sensory input.


Playing Make Believe Is A Preparation For Facing Complex Realities.