18 - 36 Months: Monkey See, Monkey Do
Living and Learning: At this age children will watch your daily routines -- cooking and cleaning -- and since it looks like so much fun, they want to try it too. By acting out the things they see, they're figuring out social roles, Korfmacher says. And the benefits of playing house don't stop there: "Kids who engage in imaginative play are more verbal than those who don't, and they use more creativity in problem solving," says Nancy Close, PhD, assistant professor at the Yale Child Study Center. When your toddler tells her doll, "Time for bed," she's playing with language and working through the bedtime dilemma. By acting out the role of Mom, your daughter is "putting herself in a situation where she needs to figure things out from another perspective," says Stamm. Pretend play can also be a way for your child to express the emotions she doesn't yet know how to articulate, Close adds. If your daughter's teddy bear is suddenly covered in Band-Aids, she could be anxious about going to the doctor.
Game Time: Make a playhouse out of a large box, then let your daughter's imagination go wild!
Originally published in the September 2009 issue of American Baby magazine.