What is Imaginative Play?

The advent of new technology such as iPhones and iPads has changed our lives for the better, at home and in the workplace, and for many parents, they’ve also become an effective form of childcare!

But as handy as it can be to sit children down in front of an iPad for an hour or so, it means that they’re spending far less time actually playing.

To some, this might not seem like that big of a deal. But the role of imaginative play in children’s development is pivotal, helping them develop their creativity, problem-solving skills, and empathy.

So, what is imaginative play?

Imaginative play is a type of play driven by the child’s imagination, and can also be referred to as imaginary play, pretend play or playing make-belief

This can be with or without toys, and your children will use their imagination to role-play scenarios they have witnessed, experienced or would like to experience. 

Imaginative play should be voluntary with no goals or result – other than your little one learning so many essential skills for child development along the way. 

The ideas that your little one can come up with during imaginative play are endless, with some favourites including pretending to cook, hosting a picnic or tea party, slaying dragons, running a shop or acting out everyday life. 

So this is a time for your children to spark their creative side and let their imagination run wild.

Why is imaginative play important?

Imaginative play is more than just fun and games for children and is often underestimated. Imaginative play activities allow children to learn practical life skills such as sharing with others, boosting social skills and learning how to problem-solve. 

Children learn from experience, so allowing them to experiment with role-play and make-believe is formative to growing up. 

It’s important to promote imaginary play to allow your children to express themselves and build stable, positive relationships.

What are the benefits of imaginative play, and how does imaginative play help a child’s development?

With school, homework, and extra-curricular activities like music lessons and sports clubs, kids have a lot going on. But imaginative play allows kids to just be kids. 

Creative play with family or friends is how your little one will communicate, respect others, develop social skills and form relationships. The benefits of imaginative play are endless.

In addition to the benefits of imaginative play mentioned above, it can:

  • Develop the bond between a parent and child to create a safe and nurturing relationship
  • Spark creativity
  • Help to nurture independence
  • Improve academic skills
  • Practice negotiation and sharing skills
  • Explore feelings and aid emotional development 
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Establish problem-solving skills
  • Develop language skills

With so many benefits of imaginative play, it’s essential as a parent to create time to let your child develop these skills in their play space. 

How to encourage imaginative play

Although many kids will begin exploring their imagination through role-play naturally and without prompt, some may benefit from a bit of encouragement.

  • Try not to impose your own ideas on your little one: let them be creative and develop their own ideas. 
  • Give your child a reason to start imaginative play. Build a den, give them a box of dress-up clothes, or make puppets with old socks. 
  • Let your kids play alone if that’s what they prefer; this is when they create their own games and let their imaginations run free. If they’re happy for you or others to join in, they will also develop their social and emotional skills. 
  • It’s not necessary to purchase new toys for pretend play. Something simple like a cardboard box can go a long way with imaginative play, from a house to a car, to an aeroplane. 
  • Show an interest in your child’s imaginative play ideas. Reinforce their ideas and let them explore their creative mind. 
  • If your child struggles with ideas for an imaginative play session, write ideas on strips of paper and place them in a jar. Whenever your child needs some encouragement, they can reach into the jar and pull out an idea for imaginative play. We’ve come up with some fantastic role play ideas for kids, including how they can incorporate their dolls prams and pushchairs, dolls pram accessories and favourite interactive doll into imaginative play. 

We’ve looked into the science behind it all and got in touch with a couple of experts to highlight five reasons kids should be spending more time messing around with toys, like our dolls prams and pushchairs and less time in front of screens.

Fancy sharing our infographic?

Encourage imaginative play with a dolls pram

Our exclusive range of Daisy Chain dolls prams and pushchairs here at Play Like Mum are perfect for encouraging imaginative play in your little ones. There’s a dolls pram for everyone, from dolls carriage prams to twin doll strollers.

Explore our full collection including dolls prams, interactive dolls and other accessories for more details.