According to research written about by the Gesell Institute of Child Development, "pretend play helps develop the part of the brain that enables a child to have executive functioning skills; which in turn leads to learning." This means that children who practice pretend play score higher academically in reading and math. This research also shows that:
"Pretend play and executive functioning are linked to a variety of other outcomes including increased language, communication, creativity, problem solving skills, and ability to delay gratification. Additionally, executive functioning fosters the ability to take on others’ perspectives, engage in critical thinking, make connections, take on challenges, and become an engaged, self-directed learner."
These are all the skills that are necessary for children to be able to achieve whatever they desire as they grow older.
In Psychology Today, research is presented to show that "Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition" which is an important skill for toddlers to develop as they struggle with learning how to handle new emotions.
Executive funtioning skills are:
- Working Memory: Ability to hold information and recall it when necessary
- Cognitive Flexibility: Ability to change and adjust mental effort
- Inhibitory Control: Ability to resist distractions
- Self-Regulation/Self-Control: Ability to inhibit a dominant response in favor of a less salient one, ability to delay gratifcation. This is an important skill to " reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy" (Psychology Today).
Fostering creative play in the kitchen begins with allowing children to watch us cook and help in a real kitchen. We have helper stools in our kitchen so our kids can watch us closely and help.
Ways for toddlers to help in the kitchen:
- Using a safety knife (from Pampered Chef) to cut vegetables and other ingredients
- Letting them measure out spices or flour to put into the dish
- Mixing, pouring, stirring
- Rolling out dough
- Spreading out jams and butters
- Pressing the buttons on the mixer, blender, slow cooker, or food Processor, etc
Here are some other resources to show how important Pretend play is in the development of a child's brain.
Pretend Play and Brain Growth: The Link to Learning and Academic Success
The Hanen Centre
Here's a list of the top 10 Reasons why children should play in a Kitchen
Here is a great site with different examples of great play kitchens. We chose something simple for ourselves to encourage as much imagination as possible.