Toy Chest Friends
As every parent knows, no toy chest is complete without an assortment of stuffed animals, dolls, and action figures. While you may feel your house is overrun with them, they are pulling their weight: They play a big role in the development of imagination.
"When your toddler cooks dinner for his furry friend or gives him a bath, he is practicing adult roles in a way that helps him make sense of the world," says Amy Flynn, director of the Bank Street Family Center, in New York City. Preschoolers get even more dramatic by giving their dolls and stuffed animals human qualities as they act out conflicts and frustrations. You may walk in on your 3-year-old as she's angrily telling her stuffed animal, "You're going in to time-out!" (You won't be the only mom who feels slightly horrified, wondering if that's how you sound to your child!) Next, you may see reenactments of events, but with an outcome that suits your child better -- for example, letting all her dolls have cookies before dinner.
One of pretend play's biggest benefits, says Flynn, is that "it gives children a safe haven to explore their feelings while feeling in control." In other words, the dolls and bears in your life are helping kids come to grips with their emotions.
Moira Moderelli is a writer in Pelham, New York.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, June 2006.
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.