Let’s Pretend

A couple of years I bought I bought a new, three-story doll house for my play therapy room. My old one was posh and well-appointed, but it had no stairs that led from one floor to the next. This was a real problem for many of the children I see in therapy, as they couldn’t figure out how to get the dolls from one floor to the next, and it got in the way of their play. They couldn’t suspend reality and pretend that there were stairs, or just have the dolls jump up and down. I notice that children who pretend do much better in life and in play therapy than those who can’t or who have limited pretend skills.

The new doll house has two sets of stairs, and the dolls can run up and down at will, and so do, and therapeutic play can go on impeded.  I haven’t read any recent research about the capacity of modern children to pretend in their play. I hope my clients represent a special group not representative of our children as a group.

My nine month old kitten has better pretend skills than may of my young clients. I know Luna doesn’t pretend using words. I suppose she pretends in images or actions, but I know she pretends. She hides from, and then pounces on, unsuspecting foil balls. She knows that the balls only move if she bats them or she carries them to us to throw. She walks away from them when she is finished playing, and doesn’t act as though they will move if she turns her back. It is as if she assigns some temporary identity to them when she hides and pounces, and then thinks about them differently when she walks away and goes on to new activities.  You can see her on top of a cabinet in our living room. She loves to jump up there and pounce on the Tomten figures and attack the Finnish straw goats. They are all in a closet now until she slows down and loses interest in them. I wish I knew what she was thinking about them.

How do you pretend? How do you think your animals pretend?

 

 

 

111 thoughts on “Let’s Pretend”

  1. I have used pretend all my life. 1) Walk myself through important events before they happen, such as my first few days at the U of Chi (but I was all wrong), interviews, class presentations, meeting my in;laws (Who knew nothing about me until I was brought home as the husband to be), same for bringing Sandy to my home, etc. I envisioned myself presenting every sermon (watched myself do it from the pews), and same with presentations when I was a consultant/trainer.
    2) Take myself off into variations from reality. A pure escapist technique over which I have never had an escape. Oh, but if it could have gone that way. Watch myself screw up agsin, which is not pretend and again over which I have no choice.
    3) When pain is overwhelming, I get inthe dark, undedr covers and walk myself through favoirtie places, such as walks on the Lake Superior Trail or places from my chi;ldhood or places I invent. Does not reduce pain. Allows me to push it partly asidxe.
    4) Envsison every scene I write in fiction vefore I write and then to rewrite.
    I have a very strong pretend factor, Renee, and did as a verty small child. Since I spent so much of my preschool life alone, mostly in the woods or in the barn, I wonder if that is why and if this has been an asset or a detriment. Also, my sister and I played pretend school from my age of about 4 to seven. this was to fulfill my sister’s wish to be an teacher, which she did become. I think I just wnet along. I was passive back then and she was as she always is assertive. One result is that I was bored in early school because my sister had taught it all to me.
    I too have always been nonplussed by small children who cannot pretend. fortunately my three grandchidren are very good at it. (Liam looks like a good pretender in that first pix yesterday.)
    Sorry about the tim typing. Takes an hour for my eyes to clear after getting up.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Here’s a question: is imagination the same thing as pretending? My first impulse was to say yes, but on reflection I think perhaps there are nuanced differences. Pretending uses imagination, but is all imagination a kind of pretending?
    Making art is an expression of imagination, even representative art, but is it a stretch to describe it as a product of pretending— perhaps pretending that something in your imagination is real?

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Pretending maybe implies that you have put yourself, your ego, at the center of the imaginary construction. Imagination in the larger sense doesn’t require that you be the actor.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. …or maybe pretending is just a compensation, a replacement for something— a thing or a circumstance —that isn’t available, whereas imagination is broader and more diffuse.

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  3. I have watched my cats and dogs pretending. My sense is that they used stylized behavior to signal that “this is pretend.” That is, they had ways to show others that they had dropped into the “let’s play” mode. With dogs this was communicated by dropping the head low with front paws extended. I felt they were consistent about flagging their behavior as playful because that eliminated the chance their intentions would be misread. A playful animal doesn’t want to be read as aggressive, I think, so it uses stylized behavior (rather like humans who insert emoticons in written communications to prevent miscommunication). “Hey,” they are saying, “this is all in fun.” 🙂

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      1. I don’t think so. For me, pretending is a social act. When done privately, I want to call it “imagining.” It seems different from the pretending of social play. And dreaming is not controlled by the dreaming dog. It is an alternative reality, not an assumed stance toward reality.

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  4. I play a pretty good bass air guitar. I also pretend myself to sleep with a fantasy football game in which I score touchdown after touchdown for Duke on both offense and defense. I rarely make it to the second quarter.

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    1. I once had this song get stuck in my head. You know . . . the old ear worm thing. When I went to school (high school) it continued to play over and over for hours. The kids around me had no idea I was “not there” in school but wandering around in a musical endorphin fog. It seemed like a joke only I understood. I was there, but I wasn’t.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. I remember babysitting as a fifteen year old for a family that had this song on an LP album. I played it again and again: Harbor Lights, The Great Pretender, Only You, Harbor Lights, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Like you, in body I was right there in their apartment making sure their kids were safe, but for all intents and purposes I was far, far away.

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    1. Thank you for this PJ. I have the song on my iTunes but hadn’t seen the video.
      and just this morning while taking daughter to work, Bohemian Rhapsody was on the radio and she actually took of her headphone and listened too it! I was so proud. I told her about Queen and Freddie.

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  5. Some days I pretend I am going to get a lot done. Visualizing exercises are a form of pretend, I suppose. Recently I use a form of visualizing when trying to decide whether to join some new group or activity – what role can I see myself doing?

    I hadn’t thought about it, but I see cats and dogs do pretend in play. Hmmm, I wonder what kitty is thinking when she bats a mouse around, almost lets it go, then pounces again… 0h dear.

    Joel had a great imagination when he was little, and we often wondered if it was enhanced by our not having a TV. Does a lot of passive screen time dampen imagination?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure it does, BiR. My daughter grew up in a home where the TV lived in the basement. Her bedroom was on the first floor. She naturally fell into the habit of reading books sprawled across her bed, only rarely watching TV. She now lives in a home where the TV is usually on the second floor (where the family rarely goes). She prefers reading books on the first floor, just as she did as a child.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I always wondered if my family’s lack of income when I was a kid helped w/ pretend. We weren’t destitute, but we didn’t have lots of toys and the tv was thought of as a family activity, not a plop down in front of it whenever you like activity. I remember when I was in the 2nd grade, there was a nice gap between our house and the evergreen trees next to it. I would play “bakery” tucked in there – using dirt, mud and occasionally wet ashes from the barbecue.

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    1. Yep, I think Necessity IS the mother of Invention. I still find that half the fun of fixing up the house is making do with what’s here, re-purposing and recycling things. I like looking at decorating magazines and then tweaking the ideas… Feels creative.

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      1. I think that’s why Parade of Homes and Designer’s Showcase sorts of presentations have never interested me. The things designers and builders can do and choose to do when money is no object strike me as arid and unimaginative.

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        1. i’ve always loved parade of homes not for designer blowing dough but for ideas on how to put all the ideas in a box
          i love dwell magazine and a couple websites for great approaches to architecture

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  7. Hi —

    Right now I’m imagining a ‘Dating Game’ set one of our VP’s has requested for an upcoming staff day skit. So I’m watching you tube clips.
    Wow– I didn’t realize how much double entenre’s there was! I was a little too young. Maybe that’s why mom and dad wouldn’t let us watch it either?

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    1. spell check schneider check…. we got it
      dating game was a hoot
      remind the principle on the double meaning (notice how i skirted spell checker) and it could be a really fun skit

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I like to pretend I’m in Hawaii when I’m at work.
    I often imagine myself the hero using my ‘perfect’ martial art skills to foil villains and save the day.
    As a child from a large family, I always played by myself but with other characters, so I would act out each role. My sisters spying on me thought me quite peculiar jumping back and forth as I played each role.
    Like Clyde, I visualize and play through scenes, events, competitions and conversations in my head before I do them — or sometimes it never actually happens.
    I’ve spent hours deciding how to invest, donate and spend the money from big lottery winnings.
    I like to imagine Jim looks like Hugh Jackman and I look like Christie Brinkley.
    Other dumb things I won’t go into here …

    Liked by 4 people

      1. maybe the best ever
        he was a studio piano player and got caught singing between sessions
        they asked him why he didn’t sing for the sessions and he said he couldn’t sing and play piano at the same time
        they told him anyone can play piano only you have that voice and s star was born

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  9. OT: I’ve been hospitalized for severe, unrelenting diarrhea and vomiting. It’s been going on for almost a week, and began during the last flight home. In the event that it’s Africa-related, I’m partially quarantined. IVs around the clock. The good news is that I’m feeling a little bit better and that I thought to haul along my laptop, cell phone, chargers and a change of clothing if they’ll let me shower.

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    1. Get well soon. They will likely want you to continue with hydration for several weeks after release from the hospital. Expect frequent trips to the bathroom. Have a good book in the “library”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Oh shoot! Hope you’re better soon, Cb. Knowing how lost you are without your “technology,” I’m glad you were aware enough to bring them along.

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    3. Get well soon, CB. I know that having the right technology can help make a hospital stay more pleasant. I had my phone and ereader at the hospital with me last summer – that way I could sort of connect with people (via facebook and here) and read books; the main problem was that I became addicted to Words with Friends and Trivia Crack on my phone and still am tempted to play those too often. I hope you can get off the around the clock IVs soon; it’s a pain to have to call a nurse every time you need to go to the bathroom.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. Well, lying in a hospital bed with no visitors for hours at a time, especially when you are tethered to the IV machine, you gotta do something in between naps and various checks by the nurses.

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  10. I like to pretend that 45 isn’t our president.

    I often pretend to be happier than I really am.

    There is one cat and one dog in this house and they sometimes pretend to fight each other, but really they wouldn’t hurt each other.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. i am a sales guy so pretending is a practice way of getting tovyes
    visualizing is what they call it

    i run through lots of scenarios all the time as a matter of survival and motivation
    i think the main difference between me and my wife and the source of lots of disagreement and unhappiness is my bent towards what i want and hers toward “reality”
    i can’t wallow and she can’t soar

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have stuffed animals from college days, but the only “toy” that I own from childhood is a dresser drawer until, kind of like this:
    Barbie House

    Anyway, I emptied out the shelving section and pasted paper furniture onto the back and sides and made it into my Barbie house. It’s in the attic now, used for storage, but you can still see some of the paper pasted onto the back!

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      1. Luckily I didn’t have any childhood trauma so my barbies didn’t have any issues with pretending there were stairs.

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        1. My older daughter, who has always had a penchant for bizarre dreams, once dreamt she had a house where you would get from floor to floor by flushing yourself down the toilet.

          Liked by 2 people

  13. When I was in my 60s I was “younger” than now. My favorite toy was my Sony headset FM radio so I could listen to public radio while hiking. But I’ll bet you meant younger than that.

    Age five: teddy bear.
    Age eight: cap pistol that looked exactly like the real thing.
    Age eleven: English-style bicycle with a gear shift.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I had this incredibly beautiful and life-like doll that I loved to pieces. I’d dress her and push her around in her very fancy doll pram. Oddly, I never named her. Unfortunately she came to an unhappy end when my mother, unbeknownst to me, “lent” or gave her to another little girl. Said girl chewed my doll’s ears off and completely ruined her! I remember being very angry about that when I discovered it.

    It was a habit of my mother’s to give things away, and they didn’t necessarily have to be her own things. She apparently didn’t consider my toys mine, and if she thought I didn’t need or want something any longer, without consulting me, she’d give them away. It’s a minor miracle that my Teddy bear, which my dad had brought home from America when I was just two years old, survived at our house until I brought him back the US in 1965. As you may recall, Teddy met his demise in Carbondale where he somehow became infested with termites. Had to incinerate him in our back yard.

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    1. I may have mentioned my Chatty Cathy before. I was in kindergarten and she was the fanciest doll I ever had. When you pulled her string, she said one of several phrases; her voice came from a speaker in her stomach. Unfortunately one of those phrases was “Let’s have cookies and milk.” and one day when I was at school, my baby sister took Chatty at her word. Poured the milk right into the speaker. After that Chatty could only croak and groan.

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      1. It wasn’t really wood shavings, more like saw dust. Yes, it was pretty traumatic. Suddenly there were all these little holes in him spilling sawdust whenever I touched him. I tried bug spray, and even showered him with alcohol in an attempt to kill whatever was eating his insides. Finally he was a such a sticky, stinky, awful mess that incineration seemed like the only reasonable solution.

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  15. I had a beloved stuffed bear named Brownie (he was brown) who I lost when my mother’s vacuum caught fire in my bedroom, and ignited Brownie. I was under 5 at the time, and I remember seeing my mother run through the living room and out the front door with a flaming Brownie.

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    1. One common theme: we Baboons had no skill for naming toys! Doggie. Brownie. PJ called her teddy bear Teddy. Funny . . . that’s what I called mine!

      A friend from my off-leash dog park had an Irish wolfhound he called Dawwg. When I pointed out to him that the name wasn’t especially original he said, “What d’ya expect from a man who named his son Guy?”

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      1. My first doll was a very large plastic molded doll who was named Lulu. My dad named her. I think he got the name from the song “Lulu’s back in town”.

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  16. Rise and Eat Lunch Baboons!

    My favorite I have mentioned before. My toy guns and holster, cowboy hat, and stick horse. I spent my days PRETENDING I was Annie Oakley.

    Anything you can do I can do better!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. Legos where always big. And my matchbox cars and all the toy farm machinery.

    I had a two level sandbox outside. Sort of built into the side of a hill. All the sand ended up at the bottom of the box. Every spring we’d get new and dump it in the top and by late summer it was all in the bottom.
    Didn’t help I made rivers and dams and tunnels under the 2×4 steps in the middle then filled it with water… of course all the sand was at the bottom.

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  18. Favorite current toy: my camera (and the paraphernalia that goes with it, such as the tripod)
    Favorite toy when I was 14: my dad’s camera (he let me use it)
    Favorite toy when I was 8: a certain tree I liked to climb

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I collected trolls. I had a little family of them, including a miniature one that you could attach on the eraser end of a pencil. They are still packed away deep in a closet somewhere, along with two Barbies and a Tammy. I think I also still have a Slinky and a Viewmaster.

    A few years ago the History Center had an exhibit on toys of the 50’s and 60’s. Very fun to see all the stuff again.

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    1. I was disappointed in the History Center exhibit. It seemed a little sparse. Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minnesota has a much bigger and more extensive collection on permanent display. I anticipated something comparable.

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      1. Well don’t forget there are boatloads of vintage toys waiting for you – just a few hours away at The House on the Rock!!!

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        1. nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    2. I remember the shock of entering an antique store in Stockholm, WI. They had Viewmasters on the shelves. I almost squawked, “That’s not an antique! That’s a Viewmaster!” But I guess stuff 50 years old IS “antique” to younger people.

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  20. For my first birthday I was given a small brown stuffed dog with long floppy ears and a rattle in the bobbed tail. As a young child I used to take this dog for walks outside. Over the years Mom had to sew the nose back on once or twice and most of the fur has rubbed off. But it still lays at the end of my bed. I have never given this dog a name – sometimes referred to as Brownie – and though anatomically is female, have never decided if it was male or female. It is my most sacred possession and no one is allowed to play with him/her. AND the rattle still works!

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  21. my toys as a kid were bebe the doll and mr boo my blue stuffed cat. my mom found the cat a couple of years ago so its in my bedside table but i hardly ever play with it now …. reallly hardly ever

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  22. i had a rocking horse that my grandfather had brought over . it was really wonderful. instead of the springs it had arms like on a train wheel. you know how when you see the train wheels turn at the beginning of the movie it has that arm that goes around and around the wheels. well thats how the rocking horse went. once you got it going it was like a continouus motion machine and o would turn on the record player and get ont eh hores and ridwe to oklahoma or my fair lady or the king and i. making hte horse go faster or slower in time to the music. my grandfather came over and proclaimed it dangerous and broken and made my mom make me stop riding it. i was so pissed. it was fine.
    then i moved to the couch. bouncing up and down getting higher and higher to the music. my red and white couch got replaced by a brown stuidio couch that didnt bounc e the same but we got used to each other.

    ohh and i had my tractor. i rode it until the wheels were gone. they couldnt fine me another set of wheels so i wqas sol. the stories about me and my tractor at age two in brainerd are pretty funny. we mved to bloomington when i was three and i had a whole new territory to explore but then the wheels wore through. it was two more years before i learned to ride a bike and there was no way to burn that energy easily so i had to figure out how to banf =g pots and pans in the kitche on the floor, play outside all day sumer and winter. there was no daycare was there?

    the elementary school got built at the bottom of the hill two blockesa way when i was 6 but from three to six it was the farmers field, the river, the woods and the neighborhood with a 1 mile walk to the store for baseball cards. do you buy the nickle pack and get 5 different cards with no chance for doubles or all 1 penny cards so you got 5 pieces of gum? hard choices

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