Dress-up and pretend play are both part of a well-rounded child’s domain. Developing more sophisticated levels of creativity and make-believe as they grow, children build a stable foundation for many areas of their adulthood. According to Lauren Lowry’s article found on The Hanen Centre’s website, due to the development of the imagination in childhood, adults draw on their experience to “invent, visualize, solve problems, enjoy a book, understand others’ perspectives, and think creatively,” among other capabilities.1 Make-believe also stimulates language development. According to speech pathologists Elaine Weitzman and Janice Greenberg, “Pretend play and language both involve the same underlying ability to represent things symbolically.”2 With undeniable proof that encouraging imaginative play is critical for a healthy and productive mind, it is easy to see why Albert Einstein stated, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”1
My son, Kevin graduated from Kindergarten in June 1987. As with all commencement exercises, it was, of course, an important event. Because my husband was on an assignment that took him away from home that summer, our dear friend, Miss Vickie, stepped in and joined the rest of our family for this most momentous occasion. It included quite the pomp and circumstance, incorporating among other things the traditional march, mortarboards, and appropriate speeches.
The children remained on the stage for the entire program. At one point, each was granted a diploma, and then Mr. Hanks, their principal, gave his charge to the young graduates and a message to their parents. Whoever thought to hand out the scrolls to the children before they left the platform was not keeping Kevin in mind. Within minutes of the beginning of the principal’s speech, Kevin apparently needed an escape from the scholarly environment, and he began to demonstrate “a hundred ways one can use a diploma.” Rather than risk boredom, he adeptly turned that rolled up parchment into a baseball bat, a telescope, a golf club, a hearing device, a sword, and a rifle. I signaled a “timeout” as discreetly as possible, but I did refrain from disappearing under my chair because my child was entertaining the crowd while all the other cherubs were sitting with hands folded and ears intent on their Headmaster. I really don’t know what any of the other attendees thought of the whole thing, but Vickie and I still chuckle at Kevin’s ingenuity and imagination displayed that day.
Kevin was laying a foundation for a creative life, something we have already seen is extremely important in one’s development. Interestingly, we grown-ups often continue the game of make-believe in our adult lives. Though we may not take a material item and pretend it is something else, we do wear masks and cover up our inner selves because sometimes that’s easier than allowing others to know what’s really going on inside or who we really are. There are various reasons for this attempt: fear, pride, insecurity, and self-judgment come to mind. We don’t want others to discover our inadequacies by revealing who we really are, and so we go on acting for the crowd and masking our true identities to garner acceptance and approval. Oh, there are those with whom we can let down our guard, but we often turn ourselves into someone totally different for the majority of our acquaintances. Even if the change is subtle, it still exists.
It is so amazing and refreshing to realize that we can be exactly who we are before God. It is obvious in His Word that there is no hiding from Him anyway, so it makes no sense to try. Psalm 139 clearly reveals this truth: “O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways,” (Psalm 139:1-3, ESV*).3 Our accepted means of hiding is in Him, not from Him. “For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble,” (Psalm 27:5, ESV*). “In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men,” (Psalm 31:20, ESV*). “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3:1-3, ESV*). The best thing we can do is to acknowledge everything we hold inside to our understanding and compassionate God Who loves us unconditionally. With acceptance and guidance He will help us to deal with the areas that may need improvement and encourage us in the ways that we are already sufficiently living our lives to honor and serve Him.
I hope you appreciate this timely message. If you should find yourself at a graduation and the speaker is tending to send your mind far off in thought, perhaps you can pick up your program and escape to the land of make-believe. Batter up!
- Lowry, Lauren, “The Land of Make-Believe: How and Why to Encourage Pretend Play,” The Hanen Centre (November 22, 2012)
- Weitzman, E Greenberg, J. 2002. Learning Language and Loving It: A guide to promoting children’s social, language, and literary development in early childhood settings. Toronto: The Hanen Centre.
- The ESV Student Study Bible, ESV Bible, Copyright © 2011 by Crossway. All rights reserved.
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