Developing Imaginative Play as Monkeys

There is far more to imaginative play with monkeys than simply scratching under armpits (which is actually what is used in American Sign Language), and making their funny sounds.  As children grow, you may see they get far better at their monkeying around skills, especially when they are interested in learning about monkeys.

In our summer Zoo Train adventures, we have a wonderful song about monkeys that helps us explore more, in an age appropriate way.  Our family style class includes children from 1 – 3 years old.  AND, we also have a preschool style class, where 3 – 5 year old children take our imaginative wild animal play to the next level.

The developmental progression of pretend play generally moves from imitating actions,  to using those actions in a playful situation, to using one object to represent something else, to dressing up and/or pretending to be something else, to creating even more ideas for actions based on a theme, to role playing and interacting while in that role.  Each child may be anywhere in this progression, and each will respond differently to the many pretend play activities as we explore the world of monkeys.
Monkeys, and children are great imitators.  One of the first favorite interactions with a younger baby is sticking out your tongue, and watching them learn to imitate that.  Older siblings find this a delightful way to engage with baby !    And will do their best to see what else baby will imitate as they grow.
Very young children also love watching themselves in the MIRROR, making funny faces, and seeing the direct effect of their reflection.  This is fun to do side by side in the mirror, as you watch each other’s faces getting sillier and sillier.   Preschool age children can take this silliness to a whole new level !
Sometime during the year of being ONE, children will start recognizing and imitating the sounds and basic movements of a monkey, especially when the siblings or parents are intent on teaching such valuable skills. ;)
As the child develops during the year of being TWO, this may include bouncing around with long dangly arms, climbing accompanied by monkey sounds, scratching and goofy faces, and of course, holding and swinging from Dad’s arm, or anything sturdy.
During this age, we enjoy playing around with a song that takes each specific monkey action and sings a verse about it.

MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO

The monkey clap, clap, claps his hands.

The monkey clap, clap, claps his hands.

Monkey see, monkey do.

The monkey does the same as you.

Of course, this song is meant to enjoy copying what one person is doing.  In class, we especially like actions that keep a beat, like clapping, jumping, or stomping.  Make sure to TAKE TURNS being the leader.  When your child is ready to explore more monkey business, try these ideas.

Ideas to try for Monkey Actions

Elbows out wide & scratch sides                                  Swing arms side to side                         Shake head and laugh

Bouncing                                                                               Hop on one foot                                        Scratching body parts

Reach down low                                                                 Reach up high                                            Hands down on ground, flip feet up

Turn Topsy-turvy (look between legs)                     Climb a tree                                                Swing / dangle

Swing from a branch (parent’s arm)                           Pick banana & Peel                                  Grab things with toes

A great way to enhance pretend play is to add an element of dressing up as the character.  The real joy of dressing up as a monkey is adding a TAIL.  This is as easy as filling a knee high stocking with some pillow stuffing or white batting, tying off the end, and tying a binder clip to it (those paper clips that are meant to hold a stack of papers, usually black, with silver handles to open it with).
When your child is interested in “being a monkey”, help him attach the tail, and watch the transformation.  Try these scaffolding techniques to recognize what they can already do, and help them expand a bit on their abilities:
OBSERVE how they start initiating play.
Talk about what they are doing, and how it relates to a real monkey.  These gives them words for their actions, and connects it to what they know about monkeys.
Imitate their ideas.  This serves to make them feel proud to share their ideas.
Ask them if they can think of another way a monkey may act.  This allows them to search their memory for what they already know.
THEN, it is a great time to  EXPAND on those ideas.
  • If your child is…   Jumping               Can she try to…     Jump high or low; fast or slow, jump over a twig, jump up on a step, hop on one foot…
  • If your child is…   Hanging from a bar               Can he try to…    hang with the knees, or just one knee, or an elbow
  • If your child is…   Pretending to climb a tree               Can she try to…  swing from branch to branch, or sit hunched down on a branch, pick a banana and eat it…

Of course, a trip to the zoo, or watching a video of a monkey can greatly enhance the ability to understand the way a monkey acts, and add elements to this imaginary play.  Imaginitive play is also enhanced by the parent, an older sibling, or another creative partner becoming a monkey themselves, adding what they know to the world of the monkey that is being created.  Instead of setting up a fort, check out the exhibits for monkeys and recreate it in your backyard, taking the pretend play to the next level.

 

 

Follow the interest of the child to learn about DIFFERENT TYPES of monkeys and what they may do differently, or how differently they may sound.  A chimpanzee is what most children think of first, but there is also much to learn about the gorilla, the orangutan, the lemur, and the baboon.  What is their difference in size, bigger or smaller than the child?  Where do they live?  Find it on a map.  Where do they make their home… in trees,   What do they like to play with?   It is just fun to google images of monkeys and look at all the pictures, talking about the differences they can see.

Actually, there are over 260 types of monkeys worldwide, check out Monkey Worlds Website for details and pictures of many of them.  But just choose an appropriate number of types that your child can handle, start with THREE, and go from their as their interest expands.

Pretty soon, you may have a little monkey next to your head pretending to pick off fleas and eat them.  Monkeys do that, and for good reason… they take care of each other.  They even cuddle and give kisses.   Pretend play with monkeys is full of fun and laughter, as they are typically very active, smart, interactive with each other and creative.   We do NOT encourage any aggression in our pretend play.  In real life, monkeys can be, but that doesn’t have to be a part of the play.

Pretend play allows us to explore the real world in a safe way.  It expands our understanding and empathy towards others, even animals, who are different from us.  And it allows us to explore different parts of ourselves.

Please share your monkey play with us, so we can see how other families enjoy Monkeying around.

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