The years from ages 3 to 5 are a marvelous time to sit back and watch children represent everything and anything with the greatest of imagination. You begin to get a view of their perspectives of the world, of people, of life, and of who they are. Watching their symbolic play is especially revealing of how they perceive the happenings around them, so we begin to describe preschoolers with a discussion of the changes and capacity of their symbolic play.
Symbolic Pretend Play
As they leave toddlerhood, young children continue to represent themselves in their pretend play, but they expand on their representation of and actions upon others (adults and objects). They pretend to comb their own hair, pretend to comb dad's hair, and pretend to comb a doll's hair. That same play begins to get more complex as the child talks for the doll or her dad, or when the child attributes feelings to a stuffed-toy dog or his mom.
Keeley often talked to her pretend baby in the napkin as if the baby had needs or likes. "You like to be rocked, don't you?" she would say. Later, she would talk for the baby: "I want a bottle," she would say in a baby voice. Keeley began to assume other roles and her symbolic pretend play began to reveal much of her life. Her favorite play was in the role of "teacher" and the adults in her family had to sit on the floor to be read to, or get ready for their naps, or wash their hands for lunch. Her words, tone of voice, and kinds of directions may tell you much about what her day was like.
The kind of symbolic pretend play in which children assume the role of another continues to gain complexity. Children usually begin with familiar roles, that of mother, father, or other relative, then to adults in their lives, such as teacher, doctor, grocery clerk, librarian, or bus driver, to name just a few. The next level of such play is when the child assumes an unfamiliar role, one about which he has little or no information. Even without experience, children roleplay astronauts, ballerinas, cowboys, and police officers. Young children of this age also often act out the roles of husband and wife.
During this time, children use objects a great deal but give them human qualities. Keeley could manage two roles—that of herself interacting with her doll and that of the doll expressing her wants. We heard her change voices for each role and it was quite impressive.
© ______ 2008, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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