Imaginative play is not only a lot of fun but it’s also vital to childhood development and should be encouraged. It’s often seen during the toddler and preschool years but it’s still important for children in primary school to have time and space to play creatively.
Imaginative play is important as it:
Promotes physical development
Imaginative play includes the whole body and often combines running, jumping, skipping, crawling or a whole range of other movements. Through play children are building muscle, learning new skills and improving their fine motor skills.
Using imagination in play helps foster creativity in many ways. Children create stories around characters they become and extend on the plot they have created together, working out problems that arise along the way. They use objects around them and turn them into something else entirely. Blankets and chairs become a fort, rocks become food, and paper becomes a crown, a ticket or play money.
Cooperation, negotiation and dispute resolution are all regular parts of imaginative play – especially when there’s a lot of children involved in it. Acting out scenarios helps children learn problem-solving skills as they solve issues that arise, either real or as part of their pretend play story.
Teaches social skills
Working together, taking turns and empathy are all skills which are learned through creative play. Children act out scenarios, solve problems and cooperate to create a game which is fun for everyone to part of. They learn how to include others, how to ask for help and how to make new friends as they add elements to their creative play game.
Improves language development
Through imaginative play, children are usually pretending to be something very different from who they are. In doing this they choose different words and phrases to communicate with each other, often using phrases they’ve heard from adults in their lives or from a book or TV show. Some of the things they say might even surprise you! This use of language helps build vocabulary and the understanding that words build a story – a skill that helps with reading as well. Imaginative play is fun and also a great learning tool for children of all ages. Encourage it by providing time for unstructured play and getting involved yourself too.