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?