If you have a child under five, you have already watched many amateur productions of plays that were composed entirely in that sweet little mind. Role play and acting scenes out just seems to come naturally to children. Perhaps it’s because they see it on television and videos. But it’s more likely because children just naturally have strong imaginations and creating alternate worlds and then making them come to life is just a natural part of being a child.
We see this kind of play happen nature when we witness bear cubs or even kittens in our own homes as they seem to be all about play every day. But there is a reason for their play. Often the games they “play act” are their way of trying out hunting, stalking, fighting and even running away. In the same way our own children use their creative imaginations to “play act” scenes in life that they will one day encounter for real In that way, nature seems to have put it into babies of every species to use play to get ready for life.
As parents, one of our great joys is to join our children in play. We get to sort of “become children” ourselves all over again for a while which is great fun. And if we think its fun for us, just watch as grandma or grandpa get down on the floor and suddenly become five year olds for a while. The only shame is one day our young ones will grow up and then we can’t play with their toys any more.
This impulse to act out scenes of life that they will eventually grow into is a wonderful resource you can use to begin to prepare your child for kindergarten. Very often, even though they may not know they are doing it, children use this skill to cope with fears about life and changes that may be on the way. So you can use kindergarten skits and games to help your child feel less frightened of that big change and even come to see the coming of kindergarten days as a time of fun and excitement so when it gets here, she welcomes it with glee rather than with dread.
You can set up a mini kindergarten room in your living room using play chairs from your child’s toy table and using stuffed animals to be the other students. The lessons can be silly things at first like the plot of the Wizard of Oz or the names of all of her My Little Pony dolls so your child gets to jump up and yell, “I know teacher, pick, me!” and begin to experience the thrill of being recognized publicly for being smart, even if the public are stuffed bears and Shrek characters.
Once your little one sees how fun it is playing school, you can begin to do more to make the game more realistic by implementing a schedule with a time to lay down her head, a time to draw, and a daily schedule including “single file to the lunch room” and back. These will be fun games that will get a giggle from your child but also introduce these concepts in a fun way so when they happen for real when she starts kindergarten, they wont be frightening but have an association of playtime with mom.
By taking the time to play out what will be happening in kindergarten, you can prepare your child for all of the aspects of school she can expect. Its an outstanding exercise and you can take her through it without ever letting her know that this is a big part of the “work” of getting ready for school, even though to her its just a game.