Did you have a wild imagination as a child? I know I did!
I was an only child, so my imagination was what kept me entertained each and every day. To this day, I still remember the names of my imaginary friends -- MiMi and CoffeeMug... Yes, CoffeeMug -- as well as the fun adventures I had with them. My 18-inch-doll, Stacy, was also a big part of my childhood, and it was my imagination that brought her to life.
The Benefits Of Imaginative Play In Children
Imaginative play has a long list of benefits for children, in addition to the fun it creates for them, as it helps them grow into creative, problem-solving adults.
Think about it. When you read a book, you visualize the setting and characters. When you're faced with a problem at work, you think through scenarios to find solutions. All of those skills and abilities came from somewhere, didn't they?
Here are just some of the great benefits of imaginative play in children:
Imaginative play helps increase cognitive development. As kids begin to play and use their imaginations, they’ll start learning and understanding cognitive skills like paying attention and reasoning with themselves and others. They'll also begin to remember what they've learned and experienced and start to apply these things into their everyday lives.
Imaginative play helps children develop social skills. Yes, even when they're playing alone. Remember what I said about MiMi and CoffeeMug? My invisible, imaginary friends and I went on so many adventures together, all of which were filled with make-believe conversations and scenarios. The same can be said of my imaginative play with my 18-inch-doll.
Imaginative play teaches kids how to collaborate, compromise, and respond to feelings. This type of play helps kids learn how to show affection and to share. These are all such important traits to instill in young ones so that they can only grow to be kind, caring adults.
Imaginative play helps with maturity. Sounds contradictory, doesn't it? Well, it's not. During these types of play sessions, role-playing is a common theme and that teaches children, similar to what was mentioned above, about sharing and empathy. It also teaches them a lot about expressing and reacting to various emotions.
How To Encourage Imaginative Play In Children
Now that we've established why it is important for a child's development, let's talk about how parents and grandparents can encourage imaginative play.
Introduce kids to real-life experiences. Children watch and often admire everything they see adults do. From grocery shopping to bank visits, meal preparation, and, yes, even house cleaning, these are experiences that children recreate during imaginative playtime.
As part of Club Eimmie, our Playtime Packs combine every day real-life experiences. For example, our Baking Playtime Pack includes aprons, chef hats, and oven mitts, encouraging a cooking type play prompt with a young girl and her 18" doll. Learn about our other Playtime Packs here.
Give them the right things to play with. I remember spending afternoons with my mom in her office when she'd have to work late and playing with everything I could get my hands on. From (empty) staplers to paper clips, I could find fun with anything. She'd sometimes give me a blank notepad and I'd incorporate it into my playtime, imitating being an office worker or teacher.
You can purchase your child a doll and supply all the right accessories for an amazingly fun play experience, or you can round-up items from the house. Cardboard boxes, old wooden spoons, rotary phones, used books -- you name it and they'll play with it.
Give children all the space they need for imaginative play. Whether they're in a dedicated playroom or under a blanket fort in the living room, the space of playtime is just as important as the toys and props.
We didn't have a large house with a special playroom when I was a kid, but my parents did a great job at providing me with the space I needed for my fun. Sometimes all they would do is bring my toy box to the living room, and that was all I needed.
If you help a child develop their imagination, the opportunities truly are endless and you can sit back and watch the benefits of imaginative play take action.
The moral of the story is to always make time for imaginary play.