Encouraging play and imaginat
If you observe a group of children playing, chances are they’ll be pretending to be someone or something else. Creating a make-believe world and role playing pretend characters is not just children having fun – it’s a critical part of healthy child development.
Imaginative play is a child’s way of making sense of the world. It enables them to identify the activities and behaviours they observe around them and interpret them.
Role playing basic activities may appear like a simple way to pass the time, but it’s a child’s way of learning practical skills such as dressing themselves, sharing with others and working out solutions to problems.
When children immerse themselves in imaginative play with others, they are developing their social skills. By pretending to be a different character and expressing their feelings through play, they strengthen their ability to empathise with others. For example, if a child is role playing a mother with a baby, they can imagine what it feels like when the baby cries, and then come up with a solution to help the baby feel better.
To encourage play and imagination in your home, here are some simple and inexpensive ideas:
A place to play
Set up an area in your home for your little one to create their own fantasy world:
- Throw a bedsheet over your dining table to create a cubby house underneath. It can transform into a cave for an explorer or a castle where a princess is being held captive by a dragon.
- Some flowers and pebbles at the base of a tree in the backyard can be the beginning of a garden where fairy friends gather.
- A cardboard box in the corner of a room can be a pretend post office for older kids to write and post letters.
Role playing with props
A few simple props can help spark imagination and develop basic skills. Don’t forget to change them regularly to keep little minds from getting bored. Try these inexpensive ideas:
- A dedicated dress up box filled with old scarves, hats, handbags, shoes and clothes will encourage children to create characters and explore different personalities and communication styles.
- Cardboard boxes, such as shoeboxes and cereal boxes, make great furniture, a cash register for a shop, or beds for sick toys.
- Wooden spoons, whisks and plastic bowls can inspire mini chefs to create a feast for their companions.
Experience the world with them
Every outing is a chance for your child to develop a new experience that they can later role play. A trip to the zoo or a nature walk can lead to new ideas for imaginative play. Even daily activities can be an opportunity for your little one to be creative. Encourage them to ‘pretend cook’ alongside you as you prepare dinner, or wash one of their dolls as you wash their little brother or sister.
Children love to involve their parents in their imaginative play. Pretend to call them and order a pizza. Ask them to buy you some groceries at the pretend supermarket. If they give you a cup of tea, ask them for sugar. By showing an interest and playing along, your child is encouraged to develop the storyline even further and is presented with new challenges to overcome.
What are some ideas you have to encourage play and imagination? Let us know in the comments below.