From talking animals on educational television programs to holiday traditions involving dancing reindeer and magical snowmen, it is not any wonder that preschoolers often struggle with identifying the difference between real and make believe. Teach your little one a simple lesson incorporating books that you already have at home, or take a trip to your public library to pick up some new stories. Teaching concepts through reading encourages new vocabulary, skills in reading retention and the ability to express ideas and opinions.
Select one fantasy or fiction book from your child’s collection along with one non-fiction book. It is helpful if the books follow a similar theme, for example, you could select a childrens fiction book about the Berenstain Bears going on vacation and a factual book about black bears in the Appalachian Mountains. Encourage your preschooler to select books that interest him.
Pointing at the pictures while you read the fiction book to your preschooler will better engage him in the learning process. Afterwards, ask him questions regarding the story’s setting, characters and story line. Consider asking questions like, “Do stuffed bears really talk?” Or ask, “Can bears actually get dressed and drive cars?” Guide your child to the correct answers, and then read and discuss the non-fiction book in the same manner.
Further discussions of other examples of real things versus things that are make-believe help reinforce the lesson. For example, Mommy is real, but your toys do not come to life while you are at school. The dog can bark and jump, but it cannot do the dishes or make dinner when Mommy has had a long day. Ideas can come from additional books, or even a walk around the neighborhood.
Hands-on activities are an excellent way to help preschoolers internalize new information. Encourage your child to draw a picture of both real and imaginary things from the story or your discussion. Hand-made paper bag puppets are another simple craft that will allow your little one to act out both fantasy and reality stories, while possibly providing some entertainment for the whole family.
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