Contrary to most adult’s belief, kids don’t just play pretend to entertain themselves.
No, playing pretend, or imaginative play is a vital component of our little one’s development. Imaginative play is an activity that should be actively encouraged and supported.
What exactly is imaginative play?
Imaginative play or playing pretend is where children will role-play in areas of interest either alone or with others. This could be playing ‘school’ or ‘mums & dads’ or even playing with dolls or cars. Imaginative play is simply a way of inspiring and engaging your little one’s imagination by allowing them to create their own world of pretend.
Why is imaginative play so important?
Imaginative play has so many benefits. It encourages creativity by providing a safe space for children to act out scenarios of their choosing, including situations that they may not be able to experience in real life. For example, your little one cannot go to a restaurant alone but through imaginative play with her friend they can create a pretend tea party that can be enjoyed at home. Not only that but it provides our little one’s opportunities to learn about other people’s perspectives, like what Mummy might think when they are playing Mums & Dads.
It also helps our little one’s physical development. Fine motor skills can be refined whilst fitting a doll’s arms through her jacket’s sleeves and gross motor skills are development when galloping around on pretend horses.
Language and social skills are also practiced often during imaginative play, especially when playing with other children.
And when play isn’t going the way our little one was expecting, it can help with the development of problem-solving and self-regulation skills. Not everyone can be the ‘Queen’ or ‘Dad’ and so working through these issues can help our little ones to build their problem-solving skills trying to find a solution. For those upset these problems it is also an exercise in emotional control or self-regulation, so feeling the frustration and anger and sadness but being able to manage those feelings without losing control.
Can you be a part of the skill development?
Of course! Engaging in imaginative play with your little one allows you to teach positive behaviour to them without them really knowing that is what you are doing! For example, when bathing their baby doll, you might ask questions like “what happens next” or talk about issues that have happened in the game, “Oh no! We have run out of nappies!”. Learning this way, in a world that is all their own helps your little one to develop critical functional skills as well as problem-solving with you there for guidance.
How can you encourage imaginative play?
Most children will engage in imaginative play instinctively, however in this digital age, sometimes we need to remove more stimulating activities like screen time to encourage them.
Make sure that your little one had access to plenty of props and appropriate toys for imaginative play and provide opportunities for play with either yourself, siblings, or their friends.
Involving your little ones in your daily chores is also a great way to provide some incidental learning. When you are prepping dinner, why not encourage them to ‘cook’ alongside you in their own pretend kitchen?
Are there any disadvantages to imaginative play?
No! I have said it before, but I will keep saying it. Our little ones learn so much through play.
Play is the BEST way to help our little ones learn and develop their skills. Imaginative play is an incredible tool for our little people and should be encouraged as much as possible.
If you want to learn more about what resources we stock for Imaginative play, scroll below for some of my favourites!
Sara’s Top Picks for Imaginative Play:
Create N Play My Village is an incredibly versatile piece. It can be used alone or with other toys to create an entire town.
Our Dinosaur Capes are a fan favourite! There is not a little person who does not get excited when they see our capes in the shop. Available in a variety of colours, they are sure to inspire some great play.
Our custom-made Mud Kitchens are a great resource to have on hand. Little ones can play kitchen, house, mums & dads or with the simple addition of lentils and oats, they can create their potions or recipes.
Our colourful Monarch Butterfly Wings are sure to inspire an entire tribe of little ones to play in their own imaginative fairy garden!
These incredible felt mats are a great investment. They can provide the perfect inspiration for our littles ones. Our Solar System Felt Mat comes with planets and is a great play base for any game. Even better, we have an incredible range available in-store! From farms, roads and even woodlands.
If you have enjoyed learning more about imaginative play, be sure to check out our other blogs, or subscribe to our mailing list for more tips & tricks!