Developing Children: How to Encourage Imaginative Play

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Category: Parenting Tips

Today’s world has been hijacked by technology, and it’s not uncommon to see toddlers being pushed around in strollers or shopping trollies, pensively hanging onto their tablet. Whilst iPads and the like provide some respite for busy parents it’s important not to neglect the benefits associated with the world of imaginary play.

Children discover so much from the hectic world around them, and are acutely aware of their senses. They are curious by nature – they love to reach out and touch things, to smell things, to look at things, to hear new or loud sounds, and to taste random things (including some things that really shouldn’t go anywhere near your mouth)! Kids learn from their experience, from what their senses tell them. They are fascinated by what’s going on around them and enjoy re-enacting scenarios they have been part of. 

Soft Toys and Imaginative Play

That’s where soft toys tend to come in, it’s common for a child to pretend to be a teacher or parent. They line up their soft toys in a row and tell them they should wash their hands before eating a snack, or explain to them why it’s important to learn the alphabet. They teach their soft toys how to count to ten and resolve pretend conflict between Hugs the bear and LilyRose the pink unicorn, reiterating what they have learnt from their own experiences – that it’s important to be kind to your friends. Soft cuddly toys by Gund UK  are perfect for imaginary play, they are super soft and extremely huggable, encouraging children of all ages to interact with them (or simply give them a cuddle)!

The Benefits of Imaginative Play

Role-playing and acting out scenarios they have been involved in or find interesting can help children to better understand the confusing world we live in. When sad events happen, it can often be overwhelming for a child to process the information and deal with the heady emotions involved.

Divorce, illness, poverty, death, natural disasters, arguments, the list of events and issues that can trigger an emotional response in children is endless. Even situations we as adults feel are small and manageable (such as not being able to reach a balloon that’s floated up to the ceiling or not being able to find our favourite book) can prove to be a huge deal for a child.

Imaginative play also allows children to get to grips with making decisions and navigating social situations. It helps them to learn the art of communication, to practise their speech and gain confidence when speaking to others. There are also practical skills to be learnt via role-play. Want to help your child to learn to put on their own shoes or competently brush their teeth? Then perhaps you can show them, then suggest he or she shows teddy or their favourite soft toy how it’s done? After all we bet ted would love to have nice, clean teeth too? Ok, we know soft toys don’t tend to have teeth, but use your imagination – if your little one can do it, we’re sure you can too! 

Make Time and Space for Imaginative Play

There should always be time for imaginary play, set aside time to encourage your child to immerse themselves in their own world. Use props to stimulate play (we’ve already touched upon the advantages of using soft toys to enhance roleplay). You can also look around the home for inspiration – your dining room table could be draped with a sheet and become the perfect den. The cardboard box that the new washing machine just arrived in would make a great space-ship / play house / castle (use your imagination – your child will)! You don’t have to go out and spend a fortune on theatrical sets and fancy costumes. You will be surprised how quickly an old waistcoat can be transformed into a sheriff’s outfit– complete with a shiny star fashioned from tinfoil! Don’t limit their imagination to indoors – the garden is a fabulous arena for imaginary play too. You don’t even need decent weather, when it’s raining, they can become sailors or fishermen, or even aliens stomping all over their sodden planet with their big clumpy (wellington boot-clad) feet!

Above all let your child enjoy being a child, let them revel in the frivolity of play and enjoy being in their own little world, after all when they grow up, they will have to deal with real life – and that’s not always a walk in the park is it?