Through imaginative play, your child can transport themselves through time and space into a world where they can be anything they want to be! With a bit of imagination, your child can turn the simplest of toys into hours of fun, building skills throughout the process of pretending in many essential developmental areas.
At Step Ahead, we encourage imaginative play every day, as we know the positive effects this can have on your child’s health and development.
What is imaginative play?
Imaginative play is when your child acts out or role-plays experiences of interest to them. It’s open-ended, unstructured play, with no real objective in a safe, controlled environment. There is no limit to what is considered imaginative play as long as your child uses their imagination (and sometimes, props) to act out the scenario.
Why is imaginative play important?
Imaginative play is so important for your child’s health and development. It’s how children can learn to socially bond, communicate, relax, and make sense of the world around them.
For more information, check out this helpful printable sheet…
Here are some examples of essential skills that your child will be developing as they let their imagination run wild:
- Language skills. Imaginative play can help your child to understand the power of language – you might even hear a few words or phrases that you never thought they knew! It will help them to understand the connection between spoken and written language – a skill that will later help them to read.
- Social and emotional skills. Imaginative play can help your child to actively experiment with the social and emotional roles of life. When pretending to be different characters, your child is ‘walking in someone else’s shoes’ which helps them to develop empathy and compassion, helping them to understand the feelings of others.
- Self-esteem. When your child discovers they can be anything by just pretending, see their self-esteem build and build!
- Thinking skills. Imaginative play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve by pulling upon important cognitive thinking skills that they will use in every aspect of their life.
7 imaginative play ideas for you to try at home:
- Go on a short walk. Leave all electronic devices at home and be open to the wonder of small details! Ask open-ended questions as you go along and be mindful of using all five senses. You could even play ‘I Spy’!
- Have a picnic or tea party. Invite stuffed animals, superheroes and family members to attend! This can be a great indoor activity when it’s raining outside.
- Cook an imaginary meal. Children love to act out ordinary things they might see their parents doing. Layout your imaginary cooking equipment, ingredients and you could even draw a stovetop!
- Create a prop box. This is a great way to spark your child’s fantasy world. You could fill it with large cardboard blocks, old clothes or backpacks, old telephones or magazines, cooking utensils or silk flowers, stuffed animals or dolls of all shapes and sizes, fabric pieces or old sheets, and writing materials. The possibilities are endless!
- Recreate your child’s favourite story. You could even take it further and ask them to make up their own ending!
- Superhero play. Your child can be their favourite superhero and you can be the villain, or vice-versa! Children love exploring big ideas such as good vs bad, right vs wrong. This kind of play is reflective of your child’s binary view of the world at this age.
- Make time. Imaginative play might not fit nicely into a 20 minute, or even a one-hour time slot. It’s okay to leave a castle or fort in your lounge room for a day or two to allow your child to fully explore their creative opportunities!