This subject can actually get quite complex, because we are delving into the inner workings of the developing brain, with billions of neurons. However, as much as we have to learn, we do know some things. I will try to break down this subject of how pretend can be beneficial for development.
Everyone knows that kids pretend. It’s often considered a frivolous, useless activity. I find this a curious conclusion. Why would kids all over the world, no matter the culture, engage in pretend play if it was so useless? Why are our brains wired to do this if it is so devoid of value?
Have you ever considered the reasons why children engage in pretend play, or “pretense”? Well, cognitive researchers have, and the findings are interesting:
1) Children pretend in order to learn the ability to represent a “strategy map” (if you will excuse my liberal use of that term). Instead of being truly “in” the situation, they can learn to think many steps ahead. It is basically like practice for the problem solving machinery in the brain.
2) Pretense can develop these problem-solving skills in the absence of performance based stress. Think about having consequences to your own safety and the expectations of adults always “weighing” on your decisions. You are most likely going to always pick the “safest”, most familiar solution. You are likely to not be very creative in this situation. But in pretend play, you can be anyone and you can be anywhere!
3) Pretense can even help kids develop empathy, by being able to picture themselves in someone else’s shoes.
4) Pretending can deepen kinetic understanding (a term I will coin here). Pretending, literally, to move with someone else’s patterns and rhythms can promote a much deeper feel for a movement, or what we might call “second nature”.
Spida Hunter is a one-of-a-kind trainer from New Zealand. He has worked with participants of all ages and abilities. I thought that you might all enjoy a glimpse into how things are done with young athletes on the other side of the world!
IYCA: What’s your background in youth sports and athletics? Have you worked with young athletes?
SH: I don’t specialize in youth sports or athletics however I do train young aspiring athletes that are looking to produce the best results and performance that they can achieve. I have worked with puberty (and post puberty) athletes which is a very influential age and a very important age not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well! I will also be training a 1st XV high school rugby team next season.
IYCA: There are a lot of coaches, parents, and even trainers who treat young athletes as if they were "little adults." What I mean by that is they will take the training routine of a superstar athlete and use it as a guide when working with youngsters. Why, if at all, should we warn them against that kind of training?
SH: I used to get very frustrated with the mentality of; this is what they do so you can too! However other then a selected few I truly believe now, is that parents, coaches and unfortunately trainers are actually doing what they believe is the best thing for the young athlete. This is what they know so this is what they hand down I do not believe that a parent, coach, trainer would purposely harm a child through training but unfortunately this is what they do when they treat the child as a "little adult"!