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The Value of Pretend

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Posted on : 10:45 AM | By : Nic | In : ,

I just began seriously using Twitter recently (if you look to the right you can follow me). I have had an account for a while but never really saw the point, and so I decided to see how many homeschoolers I could find and follow every single one to see what they are talking about. I am genuinely surprised how valuable and inspiring the conversations are, despite being limited to 140 characters, lol.

I am also discovering lots of blogs through Twitter. On my sidebar I have a sections called Blogs I am Reading, and those are seriously the ones I am reading. I keep it updated fairly frequently and they seem to change according to what is relevant in my life at the time. I encourage you to check out some of them because they really are very good. Two in particular really inspired me - one is a Mom who moved to Costa Rica and a homeschooling mom who I can't disagree with, lol. This second one, Little Blue School, made a really fun novel writing club and put it all into a free PDF (download here).

John and I started a contest to see who can write a fiction novel first, and possibly getting it published would be part of that goal as well. I have always written non-fiction, and he's always wanted to write, so this is a huge test of creativity. I am having to exercise my imagination muscles that I haven't used since I was a kid playing pretend.

Which brings me to Annie. She simply can't play pretend. That picture the other day of the girls playing Playmobile was taken because she was playing with it for the first time without needing help. Today was not so successful. For example, if Autumn was holding a Playmobile dog and it accidentally falls into the house, the event does not get worked into the story of the play. Instead she instantly goes to crying and screaming. There is no in between with her. It's HAPPYYYY to flinging herself on the floor screaming and crying. She is 6, and still harder than a 3 year old and baby combined, and the other two are not that easy.

Part of the problem is that she requires an adult to be in the room to be able to pick up on social cues. If an adult is participating in the play she watches what the adult is doing and mimics and can be quite happy, as long as another child doesn't do something unpredictable. But she can not do any independent play. She never, ever plays alone. I have tried so hard to teach her these fundamental things, but it's not something that can truly be taught, it has to be practiced. It's ok to play with others and for me to play and be an example, but being able to entertain oneself and to pretend things are both essential skills (and I just read this article which makes me realize how important it is). We went to the doctor and finally got a referral to a paediatrician for her, and I had thought that her sensory integration issues were probably the most noticeable, but now I'm thinking that her inability to play and symbolize are probably even more of an issue. Right now her biggest activity is to cut out small pictures of products out of advertisements in the paper and tape them onto paper which she makes into books. She has about 20 of these made so far.

I will be glad to see if we can get a diagnosis for her, but until then I think I will use pretend play as much as possible in our homeschool projects. For example, if we read a story or learn about a time in history, we will reenact it with objects that aren't accurate. I remember when Autumn was two and had picked up a hairbrush and was using it as a phone, and I had a memory of using hairbrushes when I was little for so many things... as a microphone, phones, walkie-talkie, a hammer, lol. I realized I couldn't remember Annie ever doing this. She wanted to sing one day and was begging me to buy her a microphone, so I grabbed a hairbrush and sang into it, and it blew her mind, lol.

Comments (4)

Have you read the Spirited Child book? It's a good one, talks about pesonalities and ways to work with our kids unique personalities.

She sounds very analytical and practical. Those are good qualities! Not all kids play pretend. I think there is a big push for play because of the kids who aren't getting enough of it these days. But going with what your kid needs should really be the key behind that push.

Playing pretend to open her up to new ideas is fun but don't worry too much Mama if it's not her thing. :hugs:

~Tara

I need to read that one... I know she has so many great qualities, I just wish she wouldn't scream so much. It's like she wants to pretend and play but when it comes right down to it, she goes into hysterics. Ah well, lol. I'm not worried too much, I just think I could help her along a little.

My son, nearly 8, has a very hard time playing on his own. In fact, last night he said to me, "I don't know how to play by myself." He's in near-constant need of other people entertaining him. However, when he actually sits down to put together Legos some other toy he has to create or manipulate, he does very well by himself.

I think it's like TheOrganicSister said - some kids are analytical and practical, and not all kids like to pretend.

PS - My son also has sensory issues, mostly related to food textures.

HI Lis,

Thanks for the comment. I suppose that's why I have really hesitated pursuing a diagnosis for her. At what point is it beyond just a personality preference, and turn into more? Is it when she can't function during the day because her sleeves are too short? Is it when she screams when I flush the toilet or wash her hair? Is it when she's 6 and still hasn't learned to have a conversation with another child because she's only comfortable around adults? Is it when she can't go through the day without carrying a small object in both hands? Is it when she has no empathy for the cat and continues to hurt it over and over? All of these things happen, daily, among a plethora of other things, and while they gradually, very very slowly are changing so that she can function, there is never a day without 5-10 thirty minute screaming and crying sessions that sound like I am beating her, which I feel like is probably not just a personality preference anymore. And I very much believe in play therapy - if I can tap the power of her imagination, which I know is in there, I feel like maybe she will begin to look outside herself and see what other people see, and possibly have some empathy, and perhaps imagine new ways to do things.