Pretend play is not my strong suit. My girls can and do play doctors, mama and babies and Octonauts every day. They post pretend letters, open cafes and walk their soft toys. They’re imaginative, predominantly independent and creative when it comes to pretend play. Still, it’s just not enough for them at the moment.
I’ve noticed that as we’re nearing a full a month of cancelled activities and staying at home, fatigue is setting in. Our daughters have developed an insatiable appetite for pretend play in lockdown. Last week they even played “Coronavirus,” which fortunately mostly consisted of a big party after they’d had a “giant cold.”
This is an area where the absence of regular peer interaction can really be felt. We first noticed this as a family pre-pandemic when we were away for a long weekend. Without their usual play items or weekend activities and with a lot of hotel time on their hands, our daughters missed pretend play and it reflected in their moods.
I’m all for a quick game of lying on the sofa at the Doctors waiting for my wrist to be bandaged, but let’s be realistic about time and needs here. Any more than twelve minutes of Doctors and I want to nap, clean, fold clothes. Anything else, please. So I integrated pretend play into our normal routines. It’s more manageable for me, and our daughters have revelled in the novelty of the experience.
I wish I had time
As part of our usual morning routine, I’ll play hairdresser whilst I do their hair. I complete the transformation with some “grown-up” chat about their plans for the day and how they’re feeling. Once their hair is done, I recommend a product and they run off and pay the receptionist (aka other sister).
“Come Outside” started this one. Sometimes when they’re getting dressed I’ll initiate a game of Dry-cleaners. They pick their outfit and bring the clothes in with a stain on. I give them a ticket in exchange, elaborately rub the stain and wash the clothes in the worlds fastest imaginary washing machine. Then hang them up for collection. I draw the line at pretend dry cleaning socks. We’ve got to manage some expectations here.
It’s my day off
Grab an apron and take a food order. It’s time to play Cafe at breakfast, lunch or dinner. This one might be particularly useful if the current food situation means dinner isn’t quite what they usually expect; “I’m sorry madam, this restaurant only has spaghetti, not pasta shapes, would you like a glass of milk or water alongside your food?”
Sometimes we’ll set the table first, or sit them at a makeshift table to enhance the role-play. It all depends on how much time and energy my husband and I have, as waiter and chef. It might add a few minutes to mealtime but I know my girls always appreciate Cafe pretend play with real food and that it makes them feel special.
Our eldest two really appreciate these little moments in their day, where my husband and I join in their pretend worlds. The first two ideas especially are really simple to initiate. Each of these fit around our normal day, adding a little bit of quality time into things we had to get done anyway. In fact, it often speeds up getting dressed or sorting hair out. They pick clothes so much faster when they need to drop them off at the dry-cleaners before they can get dressed!