Pretend or imaginative play is an important part of a healthy child’s development.
Ongoing research has demonstrated a series of obvious benefits of a child’s engagement in pretend games, starting from the age of about two and a half years through six or seven. Several studies indicated cognitive benefits such as increases in language skills. For instance, psychologist Sandra Russ identified a number of different cognitive and affective processes associated with pretend play. Her research involving pretend play focused on fantasy, make-believe, symbolism, organization, cognitive integration of seemingly separate content, and divergent thinking (the ability to come up with many different ideas, story themes, and symbols). As she explains the findings of her research: “Pretend play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition.”
On the contrary, a 2012 study from researchers at the University of Virginia published in the journal Psychological Bulletin states that a thorough review of more than 150 previous studies evaluated for clear contributions of pretend play to children’s mental development, found little or no correlation.
In any case, pretend play is fun, engaging and stimulating and definitely a better choice than passive watching of TV or videos.