Sure, I named her "Emma," but my little role-player is constantly telling me to call her another name. Today, she was five-year-old Sine, a friend from school. Yesterday, she was seven-year-old Sadie.
And, yes , some days she is even "Cecily Tynan from Action News," heading off to work to talk about the weather!
Not only does Emma rename herself daily, she tells me that I am someone else (usually her teacher) and gives me a verbal script of dialogue to follow. Emma seems to live in a fantasy land and child development experts say this is not just child's play, but an important part of growing up.
Claire Galomb, Professor Emerita of the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts and author of "The Creation of Imaginary Worlds," says make believe can expand a child's conceptual and emotional horizons.
"The creation of imaginary worlds in their diverse forms is a uniquely human capacity; it is the ability to go beyond the concrete "here-and- now," to represent the world as it is but also as it might be, and indicates an early capacity for abstract thought," Galomb said.
She continued, "Being master of an imaginary universe (in art, play, dreams, and stories) can be a source of great satisfaction as it empowers the child, gives expression to often vaguely understood feelings, provides compensation for feeling helpless or powerless, and joy for having invented a world on its own."
Psychologist Susan Linn, in her book, "The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World," says parents should encourage creative play to help children conquer their fears and explore their hopes and dreams.
Dramatic play and creative play can also be regarded as preparation for life. Pretending allows children to represent real-life problems and practice solving them. "They are able to question things and to learn about the world in ways that make sense to them. Pretend play will help children develop more creative problem solving skills as they grow older."
One day, when Emma gets older, she'll outgrow playing make believe. Until then, I'll keep smiling every time I hear: "Mommy, pretend I'm _____, you are _____, and say?." Fill in the blanks.
Happy parenting! Cecily