Mums and Dads, Puppies, Scary Monsters or tending to Teddy’s sore leg…As parents we know we should encourage our child’s imagination but busy lives can mean we often forget the benefit for imagination as time for creativity is over run by the need for productivity.
We remember doing it in our younger years; and the energy and spontaneity it brought to our childhood minds but we can easily overlook the importance of it for our own children. Without even realising it children’s pretend play can build self control, social skills and language development which television and video games may lack. Imaginative play requires children to invent their own stories; turning their ideas into words while self teaching vocabulary and grammar.
In a goal orientated world with the expectations of producing high achievers and the possibility of being instantly deflated if our child has not reached every single milestone Dr. Google tells us they should, we should focus more on feeding than forcing a child’s imagination and without a shadow of doubt be presently surprised at what their little brains can come up with. We look at five benefits to encouraging your child’s imagination and the natural benefits of this type of play.
Develop Social Skills
When a child engages in role play or imaginative play they are actively experimenting with actual life roles. Whether it be as themselves, animals or adults they are constantly figuring out for themselves key life skills useful when dealing with peers. When playing with their friends children learn to cooperate, communicate and compromise as well as encourages children to get involved in social activities and equips them to understand social relationships. These important skills are the stepping stones of children learning how to interact socially and develop social behaviours such as eye contact, voice tones and emotions. By encouraging your child to play with toys like action figures a child can pick and choose their role dependant including whether they they will play the ‘hero’.
Build Self Confidence
From almost the day a child is born they begin to grow in self confidence and self esteem by mastering new skills through imaginative play. It’s important to fuel this fire and encourage that sense of achievement, it could be a small step to us as adults but that boost can give a child great pleasure and a sense of self satisfaction. Of course the enthusiasm for imaginative play comes from pleasure instead of the search for a boost of self confidence but the two go hand in hand. The more a child plays, the more they become confident to challenge themselves with more difficult toys and exploration activities.
Increase Intellectual Growth
Pretend play invites a child to be faced with a variety of problems to solve. A child may act out a situation or it may naturally eventuate during their play. For example a child may be “building” a house and need to find the right material to build the roof, that child will challenge important cognitive thinking skills for an answer they are happy with, learning skills that they will use in every aspect of life.
Practice Language Skills
As adults we are constantly being warned how quickly kids pick up on our actions – the same goes with our words as we often here children repeating words and phrases from adult conversation. When a child role plays they are coincidentally learning to experiment and understand the power of language. This type of play helps to boost their vocabulary, improve sentence structure and making connections between spoken and written language.
Work out Fears
There’s the BIG bad monster hiding under the bed or the ghost behind the curtain a child’s imagination can cause their little minds to spin into a flurry often causing restless sleep patterns and unwanted fears which can quickly spiral into something much larger and more difficult to overcome. When children are able to role play out their fears they begin to gain a sense of control and are able to plan out ways to deal with them so these things start to seem less scary. Imaginative play is also a way for children to expel their feelings whether its anger towards a parent or sibling rivalry.
Not set up for pretend play? Try creating a special box for props and object that may spark your child’s imagination. For the most part items you already have in the home will be suitable but it may be that you need to put them in a familiar space for your child to venture to when they feel the need to play and be creative. Items may include;
- Writing and drawing materials
- Foreign currency coins
- Fabric, blankets, pillows and sheets
- Stuffed toys and dolls.
- Old telephones, phone books, magazines
With an overall push towards a market of technology, educational DVDs, television and other structured learning environments children are beginning to lose their natural ability for creativity at their own pace. Of course it’s the end goal for large corporations to influence parents to follow media and marketing trends and we can unconsciously be pushed towards products and ways of learning which may not be the way a child would have naturally been drawn to.
All our Chipmunks indoor playgrounds have been designed and built in an environment that’s safe with a child’s cognitive learning in mind. Our age appropriate zones are areas where children can play and create opportunities for their inner growth. With ride on structures, slides, bouncy castles and more, children are able to freely play with others teaching them the skills to interact and communicate with others, taking turns, sharing and achieving mastery. The toddler zone and main zone are located nearby the cafe so that children are always in view of adult supervision and adults can take a step back and let children explore and build on skills naturally.
Sometimes when an adult steps back and really watches a child develop through pretend play we can be pleasantly surprised and simply awed at a child’s ability to initiate and understand their surrounding and how to best deal with situations that are put in front of them whether it be conflict with another child, listening to adults, or the learning of sounds and touch of the environment and new objects.