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Feel Fabulous Friday - from this... to this... developing imaginative play

Creating, wondering, imagining…these are such important activities for all of us, but never more so than in childhood. Imaginative play is crucial to your child’s mental, social and emotional development. The ability to form new ideas, images or concepts without needing to see or sense something enhances a child’s ability for creativity and resourcefulness.

Even prominent and inspirational scientists such as Einstein understood the importance of imagination for children:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution”.

So, why is imaginative play so central to a child’s cognitive and social development, and what can you do to encourage it?

One of the reasons imagination is so important is that it helps children to understand the world around them. Imaginative play allows children to express themselves verbally and physically, act, react and interact, and try out different roles and scenarios within safe boundaries of their own making. Imaginative role play – for example, playing a ‘post office game’ whereby children use stationery, furniture and other props to recreate an imaginary post office – allows children to make up addresses, stamp, weigh and measure pretend parcels, deliver packages to far-flung countries and script imaginary conversations with various characters.

Role play like this is so beneficial to a child’s development because it helps them to process what they’ve seen and experienced in the world so far. It allows them to push the boundaries further and imagine what the consequences of doing things differently might be – all in a way that’s safe, controlled and completely dictated by the limits of their imagination.

Also, imaginative play is so important because it enables social and emotional development, helping children to contemplate a variety of confrontations and resolutions.

This boosts their confidence when real world conflict occurs, and could make them more successful navigating social situations in school, within their families, friendships and relationships, and as adults in the workplace.

Using creativity to develop imaginative play

I am always looking for ways to develop imaginative play and love to follow a child's lead to see what direction the learning will go in. For example, a simple bead threading activity, with a younger student, developed into a model creation of a park, complete with signs and captions and storytelling. All useful skills to support a child's developing literacy.

You could also equip children with pens, paper, coloured pencils and other key pieces of stationery suitable for their age and ability. Then encourage them to create artwork based on imagination rather than asking them to draw something they can actually see.

Some drawing prompts could be:

  • draw a magical world creature

  • create your own superhero

  • draw something you’ve dreamt about

  • draw a surprise

Click here for more ways to encourage imaginative play. Have fun!

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