Your child’s mind is bursting with imagination; from initiating play with themselves to involving other people in their playtime, it’s constantly creating new worlds and stories – and who wouldn’t want to encourage that?
There are so many benefits of imaginative play, and we’d love to encourage more parents to get involved with helping their little ones enjoy it! Here’s our guide to imaginative play and how you can encourage your children to use their creative thoughts.
What Is Imaginative Play?
In order to understand how imaginative play can help our little ones develop creative minds, it’s important to understand what actually makes up an imaginative play session.
Imaginative play is when a child takes on a role during playtime. This could be anything from pretending to be a parent, a doctor, a firefighter, an alien – anything they want to be. They’ll roleplay and act as if they are that character, interacting and making decisions in their role.
It may seem like a simple play session to us, but there are many developmental reasons why we should be encouraging them to delve deeper into imaginative play more often.
What Are The Benefits?
So why should be we introducing imaginative play and getting our children to explore the concept more? The main reason is simple – it helps their brains develop core skills that they will use in their everyday lives.
The most obvious benefit to imaginative play is that it helps build up their imagination. When playing in a made-up world as someone that they’re not, they’re using their creative imagination to determine how the ‘story’ goes, as well as how their ‘character’ would react – but these reactions are often built on observations of how we – as adults – react to similar, real-life situations. Essentially, they have the freedom to be whoever they want during imaginative play!
While it may not seem like a complex psychological task, being able to roleplay and take on a different ‘character’ personality actually helps them develop their social skills. It allows them to explore their decision-making skills, as well as encouraging them to problem-solve and explore different solutions using their own imagination.
Children learn from their surroundings and rely a lot on watching how adults around them respond to situations. With imaginative play, children often take on ‘adult’ roles, such as parents or authority figures to re-enact responses that they have learnt. It’s a vital part of their development to practice these skills, especially as it works on their understanding of how to act in situations and interpretation skills.
It also benefits their emotional development. While you shouldn’t expect Oscar-worthy dramatic performances from your little one, you will notice that they start introducing their emotions into their imaginative playtime – a sign that they are building on their emotional development and reacting to specific situations during play with the appropriate emotional response.
Language skills are also improved through imaginative play, as they will need to be able to express themselves to others that they are playing with through communication. Verbally communicating with those that they are playing with allows them to explore new vocabulary that they may have picked up during their observation of our reactions to similar situations to those that they are re-enacting.
Imaginative play also helps them develop their knowledge of how to use body language as a form of communication, too. This can range from knowing when to smile, to how to communicate being confident using their posture.
Encouraging Imaginative Play
Many children will start to explore their imagination during playtime naturally, but there’s no harm in encouraging your little ones to engage in it more often.
Give your children a reason to start imaginative play – build a den, turn a room into a doctors office, encourage them to use their imagination and see normal, everyday objects as something that they can use in their playtime. If you have an area set out specifically dedicated to imaginative play, your children will be more likely to engage.
It’s also essential that you are exposing your children to new experiences so that they can learn how to deal with them and re-enact them during play. Take them to the supermarket and let them observe you as you shop, go for a walk with the dog around the park, take a trip to the zoo – give them opportunities to learn about new situations and how to respond and you’ll start to see them popping up during their play sessions!
Props are also important – but you don’t have to do out and buy brand new items just for imaginative playtime! You can use everyday objects from around your home and guide (or let your child decide) as to what they could potentially be used for.
Cardboard boxes can be anything you want them to be, cushions can make great steering wheels – you get the idea! However, if you do have props around your home which fit perfectly in with your child’s story, don’t be afraid to get them out and use them! Dolls prams are perfect for family roleplays – and you can be sure that teddy or dolly will be super comfy, too!
Actually getting involved with your child during imaginative play and taking on your own role within their story is actually massively beneficial to both you and your child. Having someone to interact with allows your child to react in a way in which they see fit within their made-up world. It also helps build on your relationship with your child – who doesn’t feel a sense of pride when you see just how well your little one reacts to situations during play?
So, eat that piece of invisible cake, pretend to be the dog, show interest in what your child is actually creating in their own little world – they’ll love that they can play with mum and dad, and they’ll be unknowingly improving some essential life skills, too!