Children are attracted to "pretend" situations. By pretending, they interact with the world in a way that is safe and protected. When they are much too young to drive, for example, they can take a "pretend" trip in the car as a driver. This trip allows them to recognize that they are future drivers, imagine a destination, and plan what to bring ... all without actually leaving home. Pretending is good preparation for later tasks.
In a similar way, other "pretend" situations can prepare children for real situations later on in life. Thus pretending is good for their development.
It is okay to play pretend and make believe because that is the way that children learn. It is very important for children to play as an educational platform in regards to learning how to become responsible adults. Adults have all had the opportunity to learn with the strategy of playing make believe and playing pretend.
Yes, I think that playing pretend and make believe are important to a young child's development, because their creative development is so important. Play is a serious business to a child. They need to be able to imagine other things, and explore their own world in a safe environment. They accomplish this through play.
I do think that this is important for children, just to give them something to do to let them have fun and stay out of trouble. It is a fun way for kids to just goof off and do something that will keep them occupied for a period of time.
No, I do not believe that it is important for children to play make believe or pretend. Some times I think that it damages some children because the believe that this play is reality. It enhances most children's imagination which is important in creativity, but I don't think that is is generally important in the end.