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Pretend play is an important part of a young child’s life.

Trying out different roles, replaying experiences, practicing social skills, and trying out new vocabulary are just some of the many benefits of imaginative play.

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Children love to play, and play often mirrors what is important in their lives.


Children play for different reasons. Sometimes they are exploring or learning new things. At other times they are consolidating existing learning or practising a skill. Play can also be a way of building or strengthening a relationship.


Children often play simply for fun and enjoyment. They bring their own interpretations of situations, events, experiences, and expectations to their play.

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Children need time to develop their play. They like having spaces inside and outside, and often enjoy playing with other children and adults. They also need props such as toys, equipment and real objects to play with and manipulate.


Pretend, dramatic, make-believe, role, and fantasy play involves children using their imaginations. It includes pretending with objects, actions and situations.

As children grow, their imaginations and their play become increasingly complex. Children use their developing language to move from thinking in the concrete to thinking in the abstract. They make up stories and scenarios. Children act out real events and they also take part in fantasy play about things that are not real, such as fairies or super heroes. Children try out roles, occupations and experiences in their pretend play.

Role-play also involves children playing with other children and/or adults. It provides opportunities for children to make friends, to negotiate with others, and to develop their communication skills. This play helps extend language and the ability to write stories.

Early literary and numeracy are clearly evident in this type of play, for example children make lists and menus and pay for cinema tickets. They also get the chance to play with different forms of ICT such as mobile phones, keyboards, cameras, and calculators.

By helping children to take part in different types of play on their own and with others, and by providing a well-resourced play environment inside and outside, you can greatly enrich the learning opportunities that play provides