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The Benefits of Imaginative Play in Children

Imaginative play is a beautiful thing. Have you ever just sat and listened to your children play? I know for me I sometimes have to hold in my laughter as the girls sound just like me, or sound like the trinationals they are as they play travel. Give them a little rolling suitcase and they are off on some journey, trying to work out which passport is better for them to use. 

What is imaginative play? It is playing “make believe”. Some examples of imaginative play are school – where children play with their toys and have the toys be the students. It is also using a play kitchen to play restaurant or cafe. Super heroes. Cleaning the house. Saving the princess from the dragon. And really it doesn’t stop there. It is all up to your child’s imagination.

Little boy playing with toys at home

WHY IS IMAGINATIVE PLAY IMPORTANT?

There are several benefits of imaginative play. Experts believe in its importance.

  • Allows kids to relax and just be themselves
  • Improves language skills
  • Boosts creativity
  • Provides opportunities for problem solving
  • Gives practice for decision-making
  • Develops social skills like sharing and collaborating
  • Helps children makes sense of things they have seen or experienced

2 girls with homemade campfire and toys

HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR CHILDREN TO PLAY

We should be providing time every day for our children to engage in free and imaginative play. Overscheduling them, even though they might be educational, can be a deterrent to the natural development of childhood. 

Start young with your children and model ways to play. Use dolls to talk to each other. Invite them to cook alongside you. Have tea parties.

Don’t interfere. If your child is happily playing and is engaged, don’t start asking questions. This will disrupt their flow and they might not get back into the groove. But if they invite you in, then you should join. 


dress up clothes

TOYS OR ITEMS THAT ASSIST WITH IMAGINATIVE PLAY

Play kitchen with pots, pans, cooking implements and play food

You don’t have to have a “proper” kitchen. My girls will gladly use bricks outside to make their own kitchen. Buy whisks, spoons, bowls and measuring cups at dollar stores. Also, please don’t stop boys from playing in kitchens. Some of the world’s best chefs are male. They need to start young!

Dress-up clothes

Again, make the most of clothes or accessories you no longer wear. Hats, bags, shoes, ties, etc. Go to thrift stores and let your children pick out what they like. My girls love to buy proper high heels and “fancy” things they see in the women’s section.

Cleaning tools

You can buy children’s sized mops and brooms, etc. often as a set. Or you can buy items at dollar stores or other places for cheap. My girls always preferred the grown up sized ones as it helped them to feel grown up.

Tea sets or picnic items

We love to buy tea cups and saucers at thrift stores. My girls love fine china. And by buying them cheap it doesn’t matter if they break.

Boxes

Who doesn’t love a cardboard box? The sky’s the limit with a box. We have made doll houses out of them. Cars. Rockets. TV set and puppet theater. They have been caves, tunnels and ships. We still haven’t outgrown boxes.

Toy cars, planes, trains

Dolls

Blocks

My girls use their foam blocks outside to make cafes and restaurants for their stuffed toys.

Doll houses

These are often found second hand. Or make your own with boxes – which apparently are the most favorite ones my girls have ever had. Here is a video I made on making a doll house or castle.

playing with blocks

There really are many ….yet often your children will use objects that you never thought about. As I said above, my girls will use bricks to make a kitchen, blocks to make a cafe, the kitchen chairs to make a plane or bus. When we let them be creative they astound us with their creativity. Of course, it is often accompanied by mess and mud, but that is half the fun.

Let your children explore their interests. They will probably blow your minds with their ideas and implementation. Don’t forget to get in there too and enjoy the fun! There is nothing like a tea party, a salon, or even a trip to another country.

Here is another post on building imagination.

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