Imaginative Play - How And Why We Should Encourage Our Children To Use Their Imaginations
Imaginative play is when children explore scenarios - something they've seen or experienced in real life (playing Mummies and Daddies or cooking in the play kitchen), something that interests them (pretending to be a policeman or fireman) or even something completely magical and made up - and whilst it sounds quite straight forward, intuitive for most children even, its importance should not be underestimated.
A 2013 Study on "Pretend and Physical Play" by Eric Lindsay and Malinda Colwell showed that children who engaged more in imaginative play were also better able to identify and manage their own emotions and express thoughtfulness and understanding.
In short, imaginative play enables children to "process" things that happen to and around them so that they can revisit events and test different words, reactions and behaviours. For example, parents often hear children telling off a naughty doll/toy as the child takes on the parent's role in this all too familiar scenario.
From a parent's point of view, imaginative role play is also a great means of practicing situations that may be difficult for a child: saying
hello, goodbye and thank you are all easy lessons that can be reinforced at a teddy bear picnic!
Imaginative role play also helps children to begin developping problem solving and ciritical thinking skills. A playing child is not bound by the normal laws of nature, and with an active imagination, almost anything is possible - how on earth are the pirates going to find their treasure?? what can "Mum" do to help her sick dolls get better? how are the astronauts going to make it to the moon and back before teatime?
How to encourage a child to use their imaginations?
Toddlers will generally start imaginative play at around the age of 18 - 24 months. By it's very nature, imaginative play is very individual and what sparks the imagination of one child, may be of no interest at all to another. At the beginning, parents should not be scared to get on the floor, join in and, for example, show their child how to "cook" dinner for a doll. Then, parents should take a small step back and follow wherever the child leads.
It real doesn't have to be time consuming or expensive to encourage a child to embrace their imagination. Read some books together to get some ideas, have a rummage in the recycling box to see what could be repurposed for a short while; an empty cardboard box will always make a great boat/car/spaceship and every pirate needs a cardboard tube telescope!
For older children who may have forgotten how to use their imaginations or who just need a gentle push in the right direction, perhaps give them a washing line, some pegs and a pile of blankets and tell them to build a den/fort/cave where they'll be able to eat a snack later. Then leave them too it!
KidooLand's International Playgroup Team are more than just teachers!
As well as being professional Early Years teachers, the Playgroup team are of course experienced mechanics, astronauts, doctors, pirates, firemen and vets (among other things!) and will accompany your young children on lots of amazing adventures during their time in Playgroup.
Seriously though, the Playgroup team recognise the importance of not only guided activities and play, but also children's need to explore their imaginations and go off at a tangent when inspiration strikes! We use imaginative role play not only as a teaching tool (it's great for reinforcing vocabularly) but also to help foster children's self esteem and help them grow confidence!