Chalk it up to imagination. Children thrive in an environment that promotes playing, and make believe.
Dramatic play, dress up, building blocks and pretend play.
A good way to encourage pretend play is simply to start doing it yourself—pick up a stuffed animal and begin to “feed it,” saying, “Oh, he loves cereal.”
With toddlers. Make “vvrroom vvrrroomm” noises as you move a toy car across the floor. Pretend to be a cat—crawl, “meow,” and rub noses.
With preschoolers. Invite them to continue their stories. Evan said, “The cow falls off the train,” and had nothing more to add, so Dad asked, “Then what does the cow do?”
Invite children to process emotions. Use a stuffed animal or doll to ask your child a question, then wait for the answer. “Mommy, do I have to get a shot today?” “When will you come get me from child care?” “How does Bear feel when Mom is away on a trip?”
Invite children to solve imaginary (and real) problems. “What could we do if our car didn’t work? How would we get some food to eat?”