To develop cognitive, social, and emotional skills in early childhood, pretend play comes together with STEM toys and mindfulness activities for kids. With open-ended toys like wooden blocks, play silk fabric, and loose parts, parents and educators are able to support baby brain development the way science recommends.
Today, my two knights were really into their pretend play. So much that their cousin, the great green dragon, felt it was totally unfair that he was losing a lot. It was a two-to-one battle after all. My eldest came up with a solution. The knights would lose twice as much as the dragon was winning. The dragon happily agreed. And there was peace in my living room. Days like these make me want to fully support the cognitive development and social and emotional skills of my two terrific toddlers. I’m always scouring the internet for ideas to make their play sessions a full learning opportunity. In my meticulous mom mode, I’ve done my best to weed out the latest fads from the hard science. Here’s my latest discovery:
What they found out about pretend play and early childhood education
In a recent study, a research was evaluating the combination of pretend play and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concepts in early childhood education. It examined the development of STEM-related cognitive skills during symbolic play activities such as reading picture books. What’s special about this study is this very connection between STEM and pretend play. Pretend play has been proven to be beneficial to the physical, social and emotional development of young children. It has also been found to impact language acquisition. But it was difficult to find studies that relate pretend play and STEM until this discovery. On the other hand, STEM learning is being pushed forward to be integrated with early childhood education so kids may develop skills necessary for future careers. Other studies are rooting for another kind of approach to be included into the education of our little ones–mindfulness. Mindfulness activities for kindergarteners have been found to increase wellbeing of kids in relation to mental health. It is even effective as an intervention for stressful times. With these components, both parents and educators can create a holistic learning opportunity for kids that support their physical, cognitive, social, emotional and mental development.
Key Takeaway: Experts have found that symbolic or pretend play can be designed to provide STEM learning. Combined with mindfulness activities, parents and teachers can design holistic learning opportunities.
How you can make pretend play a mindful STEM learning opportunity for kids
Here as some pretend play ideas that are made up of different STEM and mindfulness activities that promote holistic learning in the areas of social, emotional, and cognitive development.
1. Imaginative play as a lemonade store owner.
- Build a storefront out of cardboard boxes or by borrowing furniture around the house. You can also use your fort building kit!
- Learn about the sense of taste! Why is the lemon sour while the sugar is sweet?
- Measure the amount of ingredients needed to make lemonade.You can research a recipe together or experiment and make your original!
- Lemonade store owners have keen senses of smell to find the best lemons! Can they find the best smelling lemons with their eyes closed? Mix in other citrus fruits to prove their sense of smell!
- Teach compassion by giving out free lemonade to someone who needs it! Can you find someone in your neighborhood who’s work looks tough?
- Have a talk about how it felt to work in their lemonade store. Is it an easy job serving customers?
Little Sonny here sure has the skills it takes to man a lemonade stand!
These little entrepreneurs loved their lemonade stand experience, and we love how hardworking they are out at their storefront!
2. Baking goodies for good!
- Pretend play as a chef and bake a batch of home-made goodies with your child! Your child can learn to measure ingredients, understand heat, and discover how kitchen appliances work.
- Discover the chemical reactions that take place in baking! Why does dough rise? Why are there airbubbles?
- Share your homemade goods to a shelter in your vicinity. It can be for people working in an animal shelter or the elderly home.
- Practice mindful eating by talking about where the baking ingredients came from. Create a mindful space with a spread out play silk and guide the conversation. Is it made of flour? Where does flour come from?
- After sharing your baked goods, write a gratitude journal about what they feel thankful for after the activity.
Little chef Keira of @play.and.learn.4.littles has some solid baking skills! Make it part of your pretend play story too!
What awesome focus! We love the dedication of this little one to his kitchen activity!
3. The birthday bash pretend play party!
- Whose birthday are we celebrating? Their favorurite neighbor or teddy? Help your child plan out the logistics: guest list, invitations, venue, food and drinks!
- Cut cake, pour juice, and blow up balloons to understand different phases of matter.
- What’s a party without entertainment? Amaze your guests with the crowd-favorite experiment, the colorful elephant toothpaste!
- Give plenty of time to let your child freely interact with their friends! Free play is always a mindfulness activity.
- Read a story about friendship, celebrating togetherness and even social equality with their child peers.
Is it a nice day out? Set the backyard as the party venue and bring out the play silk!
How about a birthday tea party for two?
We love this moment from @life.with.moon.and.co With these three pretend play ideas, you can make playtime a comprehensive learning opportunity for your kids. Want more play ideas? Read about some open-ended play activities here.
Key Takeaway: You can use our play ideas as a pattern for designing your child’s pretend play with STEM and mindfulness activities.
Where you can get more ideas on STEM and mindfulness activities for kids
Avery&Ruth is launching its monthly subscription box which is guaranteed to provide learning opportunities that teach STEM ideas creatively and with mindfulness at the core.
In the Avery&Ruth monthly box, there will be 4 self-talk cards, 3 mindfulness activities, and 1 craft-of-the-month idea. Our goal is to introduce activities that help kids build good habits and reap the benefits of mindfulness from a young age. We know that mindfulness doesn’t happen for anyone overnight, so our monthly subscription box is here to guide you in your journey with your child.
Every month, we are also featuring a special advocacy your child can learn about to become a compassionate citizen of the future. Find out more information here!