How To Encourage Imaginative Play
As opposed to the limited, passive learning that occurs through watching TV, imaginative play encourages and allows kids to use more muscles and all senses, leading them to learn efficiently and actively. Benefits of letting them explore their own choices and inventions cannot be underestimated, but how can adults, as caregivers, encourage this imaginative play?
Although the best play experiences are child-led, supportive adults can be instrumental in setting up opportunities for imaginative play.
There are a few broad categories to think about, each with a million variations. But don’t worry too much about details! If you manage to point them in the right direction, kids know what to do!
Make Believe Play: encourages verbal and nonverbal communication, and allows movement and practice of full-body activities. Consider getting together with some puppets and dress up clothes, and allow the characters to come to life.
Creative Play: think art and craft. Play dough, paint, glitter and glue. Keep an assortment of materials on hand for when your resident artist is inspired to create a masterpiece. Don’t discount recyclable materials. Newspapers and origami paper are equally great in their own ways.
Construction and Building Play: this allows kids to imagine the physical world before them into being, growing their confidence as they master trial and error, practice techniques and perform experiments. Blocks and boxes are the mainstays needed for this category, but don’t forget how great a fort made of cushions can be too.
To really encourage imaginative play, be sure to provide a clean organised space and check your expectations at the gate. Limit your own restrictions on your child’s play. There is nothing wrong with colouring the sky green or using play equipment in unconventional ways. Follow your child’s lead and be amazed by how natural and limitless their talent for creating is.
While giving the child free reign, stay available and responsive to your children’s requests for help. They might need assistance achieving their visions, so be on hand to help with cutting and gluing, or tying their astronaut shoes.
Introduce themes to your child to excite and increase their imaginative scope. Vet’s office, medieval times, playing restaurant or build your own town activities can spread across different types of play and can expand into extended units of play. And before you know it, you will be playing a leading role in your child’s imaginary games.