Milestones: Children Feeding Their Playtime “Baby”
We’ve all seen young children doing it—pretending that their dolls or stuffed animals are their own little babies and feeding them a bottle or even stuffing play spoons and forks into their mouths. This naturally occurring phenomenon is not just the stuff of play, however; instead, it is actually a very important milestone, as it signifies that your youngster understands family dynamics and is beginning to think beyond her own needs to the needs and wants of others, even if only in her imagination.
Since pretend play usually begins between 12 and 18 months, you may begin to notice your child feeding her dolls or animals as early as her first birthday. As your little one’s cognitive abilities and capacity for imagination expand, however, this pretend play will become increasingly complex. For example, your child may take on the role of “Mommy” or “Daddy,” and not only feed the doll, but dress her, put her to bed, and generally pretend to take care of her, just as she herself is taken care of. Imaginative play of this nature usually continues throughout the preschool years.
As with all milestones, this type of pretend play will most likely occur on its own. After all, your child is simply mimicking what goes on around her each day. There are also ways to encourage your child’s development in this area. Of course, it’s helpful (though not necessary) to purchase a baby doll for your child to play with. If you choose not to, your little one will no doubt find a suitable substitute among the toys she already has. There is some debate concerning what type of baby doll is best suited for a child’s pretend play. While some parents lean towards the more realistic dolls that talk, open their mouths, and even wet themselves, arguing that this type of doll makes imaginative play more engaging for their children, others think simplicity is best. Those parents who purchase very basic looking and non-functioning dolls for their children believe that in doing so, they are encouraging children to rely on their imaginations rather than the actual toy.
Beyond providing suitable materials for your child to play with and offering them to her often, there’s not much else you need to do to encourage your child to play with and feed her dolls. This type of behavior is nearly as natural as breathing and some experts suggest that over-involvement on the part of the parents can actually inhibit children’s imaginations. After all, children are notorious for being much more creative than adults. The best advice you can take is to sit back and watch as your child explores different roles and ways of playing.