As we’ve grown out of imaginative play, it’s often easy for adults to undervalue the importance of such behaviour. However, imaginative play is actually an essential part of a child’s development, helping them to acquire invaluable skills for later life.
Because we’re so out of the loop when it comes to playing imaginatively, it can be tricky to encourage our children to do so. So, to help you to encourage imaginative play with your children, here’s a quick guide.
Why imaginative play is important
Children learn through experiences and imaginative play helps your child to experience things that they wouldn’t usually in the real world. From what they can smell, hear, touch, and taste, children absorb information and learn from it; imagining being in different scenarios allows them to practice their behaviour and problem solving skills, allowing them to grow and develop.
We spoke to Play Like Mum who said: “Through imaginative play, children will encounter problems which they have not yet experienced, such as two children wanting to play the same role in a game.”
“This allows them to develop key problem solving skills which will help them in later life, along with empathy as they will be both exposed to the needs of other people and get to experience what it is like to be another person through imagination.”
Engaging in imaginative play is also a great way for your child to develop healthy self-esteem – a characteristic which is boundlessly beneficial in later life – as they will quickly come to realise that they can be whoever they want to be in any situation they choose simply by using their imagination.
For more on the skills your child can develop through imaginative play, check out this article.
How to encourage imaginative play
An effective way to encourage your child to engage in imaginative play is to provide them with a safe space at home for that specific purpose; you can fill it with objects to stimulate their imagination, such as dress up clothes, sheets, figurines, and even art and craft materials.
Let them spend time in that area both alone and with you so that they can explore and engage with the objects and you can provide a little bit of inspiration in necessary.
Another technique is to make reading a part of your child’s everyday routine, whether that be you reading to them or them reading too. Not only does reading benefit your child in a great number of ways, it immerses your child in an alternative world, which could give them endless inspiration for imaginative play.
Setting up scenarios in which your child can play imaginatively is another highly effective way to encourage such play. Creating a makeshift dining table with objects such as plastic cutlery and a toy tea pot is the perfect setting for a pretend tea party. You could even use boxes, lego, and building blocks to create a pretend scenario, such as working on a farm or in a school.
If your child is struggling with playing imaginatively, it’s important that you don’t lose hope! Gentle encouragement, perseverance, and a little bit of inspiration from you could be all it takes.