Children’s pretend play and digital technology | Sunday Observer

Children’s pretend play and digital technology

26 September, 2021
A little plays the role of a vegetable seller
A little plays the role of a vegetable seller

The contribution by digitalization and technology to young children is of enormous significance, notably at a time where children's education is severely affected by the temporary closure of schools around the world due to the pandemic.

To awaken children's enthusiasm in activities and professions linked to digital technology; it has to be a part of play in kindergarten, as it is demonstrated with smartphones, tablets, robots and so on. In that context, it is noted that pretend play is apt in meeting all these key characteristics. Pretend play is centered on young children taking on a plurality of identities, to invent what could be possible to explore and have their own voice.

In terms of children's learning in early childhood, play is considered as an integral part. It has been demonstrated that in early childhood education, guided pretend play is able to initiate a high quality pretend play and children are also able to be offered with learning opportunities in many diverse areas. Contrasting hugely to the frequent passive use of digital technology, an efficient, critical and creative handling of digital technology is encouraged by the pretend play.

During early childhood, the core skills of the above calibre facilitate the children's need of engaging in pretend play; children's interaction with each other, their communication and cooperation in pretend play, their efforts taken in trying out ideas and processes and exploring opportunities. It is noted that the information management and the technical skills are possible to be achieved, if digital transformation is made salient as a content of the pretend play. Children are able to explore themselves as active technological agents, i.e., children can imagine and act as if they are technicians, teachers, computer scientists or doctors and use pretend play digital devices.

Pretend play devices

Smartphones, tablets or any object created by children that are made of cardboard are considered as the pretend play devices. Researchers say that pretend play is able to encourage children to imagine themselves in various roles in their everyday life; it gives them experience as if they use digital technology and shape the digital transformation processes. Children get the chance of experiencing themselves as tech-savvy by pretending themselves as computer scientists and IT technicians.

Researchers say that children are seen, incorporating spontaneously with digital aspects in their pretend play, notably they get access to digital artefacts such as phones and computers. It has been explored as to how the children use imaginative technologies; pretend typing on a keyboard. In this aspect, they use not only the digital artifacts but also the other objects in order to pretend that such things would be digital devices, i.e., using a building block as a smartphone.

Playing teacher and students

By providing pretend play materials and guiding pretend play, the quality of pretend play can be promoted. The guided play is also known as the approach of using play in the introduction of curricular topics by providing materials and guiding pretend play. Meanwhile, imaginative play happens as the children role-play their experiences of interest. Children can involve themselves in imaginative play either alone or with others.

Researchers say that children's development is benefited by imaginative play. It is also able to enhance the children's creativity by providing them a safe place where they are able to act out the scenarios of their interest which also include the situations that they may not be able to experience in their real life.

For example, through imaginative play, a five-year-old who is unable to sell vegetables physically at a fair, organised by the kindergarten, notably due to the current pandemic situation, virtually sells the commodities. It also gives the child an opportunity to learn about the perspectives of other people. For example, as to what the buyers may think when the commodities are sold.

Hand-eye coordination

Imaginative play is also able to promote physical development in an interesting way, i.e., a little girl fitting a doll's arms through the sleeves of her jacket is good for hand-eye coordination where the child learns to move and control her hand in different ways. Also, galloping around on pretend horses can enhance the gross motor development and coordination.

Playing doctor and teacher is also rather popular among the children in the kindergarten where it gives an opportunity for young children to practice and develop their social interaction, language, ability of relieving, evaluating and decision making by merely being with other children. It has also been found out that such activities are able to boost self-regulation and problem solving skills of children. It is noted that imaginative play with peers is also able to create situations where everyone does not get what they desire.

For instance, in a pretend play castle, as more than one child loves becoming the king, the child who loses the chance of being the king needs to learn as to how unpleasant emotions could be managed, if the play would have to continue. Parents understand that imaginative play gives them an interesting way of teaching positive behaviour to their children. Parents are also able to introduce situations where incidental learning opportunities are created. For instance, parents may ask questions from the child, as the child showers the doll. The questions such as "what would happen next?”.

Parents can also make comments such as "the water is clean and cold". Also they can be convinced about the dilemmas such as "Oh, come on, soap ran out". These types of activities probably teach the child critical functional skills as well as the ability of working through tricky and critical situations with guidance.

Guided-play assists the children to go beyond the use of digital technologies that they experience in their day-to-day life to envisage themselves to be users, developers and also the producers of future digital technologies.