Dr. Gellner: Playtime is fun time and there's a reason why it's important for development. I'll discuss the magic of play on today's Scope. I'm Doctor Cindy Gellner.
Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You're now entering "The Healthy Kids Zone with Doctor Cindy Gellner" on The Scope.
Dr. Gellner: We all remember a time when we had few obligations, we could play dress up like a princess or a superhero and spend our days creating our own magical universe. Then, life gets in the way. Those preschool years are called the magical years for a reason. That's when a child's brain is developed enough to imagine amazing stories, but not yet complex enough to understand reason and ask, "Can that really happen?" See, in their world of imagination, anything can happen.
Babies use their senses to explore their world. As they develop, they learn to understand how things work. "If I push this button, the cow comes out of the barn. Wow, I did that!" Now, as preschoolers, they take this knowledge and combine it with a growing imagination to come up with some fantastical ideas about why and how things happen.
Pretend play, like being a superhero, allows kids to learn problem-solving and the all-important skill of learning how to share. Self-control is a tough skill to learn and pretend play helps kids practice it as well as play out the frustration it creates. So how can you, as a parent, help encourage imaginative play? Rule number one, be a big kid and play. Go along with anything they come up with and keep away from those electronics. Let them play the old-fashioned way with dolls and blocks and trucks and anything that requires them to be creative. I personally am a Little People fan. Give them the chance to free time play all by themselves as well and with friends.
Reading to your child is a great way to get kids thinking, "Hmm, what comes next in the story?" It also promotes language skills so don't surprised if your preschooler becomes a little chatterbox; that's a good thing. The day will come when the magic ends. The princess tiaras sit on the shelf, the superhero action figures stay in the box. It's a bittersweet moment. Your little one is growing up and your child's brain is developing, as it should.
This time in childhood, sometimes called "the age of reason," is also when kids begin to form a conscience, differentiating between right and wrong and not just acting on impulse but because something is the right thing to do. So be sure to enjoy the magic while it lasts and have fun playing.
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