What is Imaginative Play and how to encourage it?

From the moment they are born, children are experiencing all kinds of situations that life throws at them. This is a lot of information for them to process and they have to find a way to absorb it and learn how to understand it. This is where imaginative play comes in.

What exactly is Imaginative Play?
In short, Imaginative Play allows children to use role play to act out a situation they have experienced, watched or something they have gained an interest in.

Children can pick up social skills and learn how to interact with people, through the way they talk, listen, use expression and body language. They can also learn how to problem solve. Imaginative Play encourages emotional development and helps them to understand and express the way they are feeling whilst also discovering how to handle strong emotions such as anger or sadness. Most importantly, Imaginative Play allows them to have fun and unwind from everything else whilst still learning.

How exactly do we as parents encourage Imaginative Play?

Provide an area dedicated to imaginative play
Having a place in the house or garden that is dedicated to role play helps them to imagine whatever situation they would like to act out that day. This could be under a table, in a wardrobe, on the sofa under a sheet or even a corner of the house where they have everything.

By having this dedicated area, you are enabling them to let their imagination run free because they know they can adapt the space to their hearts content.

Props and Toys
This can vary for every child, some may just like something as a simple as a cardboard box and create hours of fun by turning it into a car, a house and everything in between. Whereas some children may prefer something more specific.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend on multiple sets of items, a lot of the time children will be satisfied by things you have at home and you can encourage them to use those props as substitutes for others. This helps to expand the range of situations they can create and broaden their imagination.

Dress up Box
On top of having multiple props and toys for children to access and use, a dress up box can become an essential part of them recreating experiences or trying something new.

Having a selection of different outfits allows them to really become the character that they desire to be. They also can spark imagination because one dress could be used in countless imaginative stories.

Someone to play with
Children enjoy Imaginative Play more if they have someone else to do it with. Whether it be a sibling or a friend, they can really recreate a variety of experiences if they aren’t alone and take it turns to choose what happens in each situation.

It’s important to remember as a parent you should also spend time helping your child with imaginative play. If they try to involve you play along, give them a chance to be in charge.

Provide Experiences
Most of the scenario’s children use when doing imaginative play are ones they have witnessed or heard about as it adds the level of reality to their imagination.
Ensure they have these experiences to act upon. This could include reading stories together which would help both their creative and academic development. Or take them for days out to the zoo for example, which will help to use their different senses.