Through the Eyes of a Five-Year-Old
Let’s rewind our lives and go back to those good old childhood days. Now, while you bask in the nostalgic reverie, just give a thought to whether you liked play-acting as a child? And loved running outdoors for all sorts of games? Did you not crave for your parents’ attention or throw tantrums and behave in an unruly manner at times?
If you have answered these questions affirmatively, then you must have certainly got a glimpse of how your preschooler perceives her world and what she wants.
The world is still an enigma for a child. For her a tooth fairy, a monster hiding under her bed is as real as any person living across the street. Fantasy and reality are just names of one and the same thing for her. Such imaginative play or pretend play wherein they play out their fantasies and imaginations, or even their experiences, is of special interest to them. As a grown-up, you might consider these idle indulgences. The fact, however, is that not only does imaginative play satisfy your child’s desire to enact her imaginations and experiences, but it also significantly impacts her cognitive, emotional and social development.
Research has demonstrated that through pretend play, children develop cognitive and affective processes important for their overall functioning. Divergent thinking, insight imagination and affect expression, all of which are greatly relevant to creativity and problem play, are enhanced. Scholars Julie A. Fiorelli and Sandra W. Russ conducted a study to examine the relationship between pretend-play, coping and subjective well-being involving positive mood and life satisfaction. In a follow-up article, they documented their findings:
‘They found that affect or emotional themes in play relate to positive mood in daily life and that imagination and organisation in play relate to coping ability.’ (Julie A. Fiorelli and Sandra W. Russ in ‘Pretend Play, Coping and Subjective Well-Being in Children: A Follow-up Study’)
The complex cognitive structures developed in play facilitates a child to cope with her emotions, and to express her emotions more explicitly.
This tender age is also a highly perturbing age if viewed through the eyes of your preschooler. She is still a child, who is ruled by her emotions, but she is also beginning to be independent, in small, and significant ways. This paradox is played out through her tantrums and sometimes in her unruly behaviour. Caught in this middle state of child-like independence, stress is very likely to affect her and she might at times throw a toy or push a friend. She is unaware of the correctness and incorrectness of her behaviour. While it certainly is your responsibility to come down to her level and correct her, imaginative play can lend a very helpful hand. Empathy and social skills such as negotiation, turn taking, sharing and exercise of individual understanding and interpretation can be acquired very naturally in the course of role play. Not to forget that it will give a boost to the child’s communication skills and understanding of body language and expression.
So, take some time out of your busy schedule and set up a play area where your loved one can give free rein to her imagination. Also, let the child in you come out! Engage actively in the role of your child’s playmate. This will not only put that cheerful smile on her face which you have always desired, but also allow her to reap maximum benefit from her role play. If we were to follow medical science, a healthy brain architecture is a perfect blend of a sturdy foundation built by appropriate input from a child’s senses and, stable, responsive relationships with caring adults.
So, let your child imagine herself to be an engineer and take out the parts of an old toy car and put them back together again. Or let her scribble words and pretend to be lost in thought like a poet.