I grew up watching Mr. Rogers and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers was an adult who could pretend. He was a real life adult who played alone with trucks in his sandbox. He talked to a trolley and it talked back. I don’t remember thinking this was strange as a child.
My parents would also pretend with me occasionally. They would hold my baby dolls. They would pretend to eat my playdough sandwich. They didn’t argue when they had to step around my invisible students while I was teaching school. These are vivid memories of mine. I didn’t realize or appreciate how special that was at the time, but I do now.
I’m sure you’ve noticed that children spend a lot of time pretending. They love pretending they are grownups doing grown up jobs. There are good guys and bad guys. They also like
pretending they have superpowers or they are chasing unicorns. And sometimes they pretend to be their favorite talking dogs that also like doing grown jobs.
Have you ever wondered at what point it changes from pretending to faking? Neither had I.
A couple weeks ago at my preschool one of the teachers was pretending to go “down the basement stairs (that don’t exist)” by slowly crouching lower and walking as he vanished out of sight. One of the four year olds was quick to shout out, “you’re just faking!” All the other children quickly chimed in and also agreed this was all fake! It became quite a protest of accusing the adult of tricking them. “You’re just lying.”
Children are constantly asking us to join in on their tea parties and with their action figures. Demanding us with their tiny voices, “Pretend we are battling!” or “Pretend you’re the baby.” They don’t usually call us fakers if we do. After reflecting and listening to the children over the last couple weeks, I have so many questions about this for them.
If it is their idea it is called pretending? Is it only fake if an adult plays pretend without a child’s initiation? Who is making these rules? Is it so ridiculous that grown-ups want to pretend without being told to do so? Are actors faking or pretending? Is it only faking if it is a trick? Is pretending different than joking? Is joking different than faking? Why can’t grownups pretend at their own
I think the only option is to prove them wrong.
Let’s prove to them that grownups can pretend too.
Get down on the floor. Pour the invisible tea. Make the train talk. Try to enjoy pretending again.
And if you really can’t find joy in pretending, then just fake it.
This is how memories are made. And your children will remember.
Jessica Lewis is the owner and lead teacher of a small private preschool in Wilton. She has a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. She and her husband have two boys of their own and she is inspired by children and enjoy learning and growing along with them.