How To Decode Your Child's Fantasy World?
Created by Swapna Nair Updated on Nov 14, 2018
My two-year-old granddaughter was on a video call with me. I put on a mask to fool her. She stared at me. I removed the mask and she smiled gleefully.
Toddlers can get fooled easily and hence we like to play pranks on them too. By the age of two, they indulge in imaginative play or pretend play. It would last for a year or two while some carry on for a longer time.
It is interesting to note that your toddler does not need any fancy dress costumes to indulge in imaginative play. They enjoy using simple props like your dupatta/stole, bedsheet, a cap, spectacles, shoes etc.
They like to hide under tables and cots. They talk to their stuffed dolls. Most often you will see your child acting out as a parent to the dolls. They may be harsher or kinder or eerily similar to you. Hence if you observe keenly you will realise how much they imitate what they see in their surroundings. Do not get startled if they use your vocabulary too. This could motivate you to be cautious while being around them.
I was amazed to see my two-year-old granddaughter trying to act mommy to her six-month-old brother. She was imitating her mother very well.
Often you will note the little ones mumbling to themselves and singing to themselves as they indulge in pretend play. They are merely creating their own world as to how they interpret the real world. This real world is also how they perceive.
Your help and guidance are needed especially when they try to escape a situation by lying. They do not know they are lying. Neither do they understand that lying is bad. A child who breaks a toy may say he did not break. To him, it is not lying. He is just saving face or he is afraid of your reaction.
He does not know that you know that he has broken it. On coaxing, he may accept. In his imagination, it just broke while playing. Do not take it too seriously. Instead, make him comfortable by stating that you saw him break and that he ought to be more careful. Use a neutral tone and be reassuring so that he does not slip into the habit of lying.
Pretend play is not bad for the child. It is most natural. It helps in enhancing the creativity of the child. A child has to be very imaginative to indulge in fantasy play. For example, some children after hearing a horror story or seeing something on television might imagine a monster hiding under the stairs. Do not mock or laugh. Nor should you brush the fear away. Look at it from their perspective. It is indeed scary. Be reassuring and encouraging. Cuddle up if need be, until they feel safe. As the primary caregiver only you can offer the safety.
Do not get alarmed too when you see them play all alone and they are giggling or having a conversation with imaginary friends or characters. It is a temporary phase. Single children may carry this for a few more years. You know your child best. Unless it is very abnormal, you need not worry.
Talking aloud, playing with imaginary characters in a fantasy world, improves social skills and cognitive thinking. So pretend play does have benefits. By the time they are three and a half they know that their friends are imaginary. Most children are able to leave aside their fantasy world when not playing.
It is common for children to be fascinated with extraordinary tales of super-heroes and fairies. Readout stories and introduce books at an early age. While telling them the stories, make it a point to assert that they are mere stories.
During my childhood, we used to play in the garage or the backyard away from the prying eyes of adults. It wasn’t alarming at all to our parents.
In fact, a lot of secrets about school would spill out during pretend play!
In today’s age, with most people living in enclosed spaces, with no outdoor space to play, children need that alone time to indulge in fantasies. It prevents them from being bored.
Hey, I see a flying saucer. Shall we go aboard? Come, relax and fly away to the enchanted land.