The power of imagination and play
Imaginative play is an important part of development. Through play, a child can make sense of the world around them and can practice tackling problems or worries they may face in real life.
Here are just a few of the different types of imaginative play you might spot in your children.
This sort of creative play allows the child to create a world complete with many characters. Through playing with a traditional dolls’ house, farm, zoo or hospital the child has lots of opportunity to develop the skill of empathy as they decide how each character will react to the others. What happens if the cow wants some food but the farmer hasn’t finished feeding the pigs? What if the little boy hides where his Mummy can’t see him?
Small world play can also be used alongside other toys, particularly construction toys. Use duplo to build a nice new elephant enclosure or perch a knight on look-out at the top of a tower. What can they see from different locations? Where will they go now?
Close to home
Larger scale imaginative play includes playing with a tea set, toy lawn mower or telephone, and dressing up as familiar figures like a doctor or teacher. You might be surprised to see how closely your little one has been observing you when your habits reappear in their play! Everything from the way you hold a knife to how you answer the telephone might be recreated as your child practices the adult tasks they are not yet able to do in real life.
You might also notice that they work through a situation which is bothering them, such as starting school, a doctor’s visit or monsters under the bed. Creative play is a safe environment where the child can test out any worries and make sense of the world around them.
Off on an adventure
Of course imaginative play might also involve adventuring a little further afield, to the jungle, the moon or the bottom of the sea! Here a little one is not trying to represent a real life situation but is being truly imaginative. The child has a wonderful opportunity to follow their own ideas, freed from adult expectations about what should happen or what is the right thing to do. After all, who are we to say what a giant would do if he met an octopus? Developing independent thought in this way is important for young children as they have to follow an adult script so often. And, like all the best learning opportunities, it is also great fun!
Photography: Eirik Solheim @Flickr