Imaginative Play in Early Childhood
Young children learn by imagining, and doing. They pretend to be Mommy talking on her cell phone, they make their legos visit the land of dinosaurs, or they may even crawl around the house on all four's pretending to be a puppy. These are just a few of the millions of ways that children use role play to act out experiences they may have had, or they may have interest in.
How to Encourage Imaginative Play with our Children
Adults often underestimate the power of pretend play. Sometimes, our minds just can't go there. I know I struggle playing dinosaurs with my 5 year old. Just not my thing. However, play is a child's way of engaging in and making sense of the world around them. Pretend play is proven to develop social/emotional skills, language skills, thinking skills, eye hand coordination, spacial skills, all while allowing them to safely express their feelings.
Provide a Place of Pretend
Provide your child with a place that they can pretend, but don't always restrict it to one area of the house. A bunny has to hop around. You don't have to feel like you are reinventing the wheel, or go out and spend a lot of money. Remove all of the kitchen chairs from around the dining room table, place a large sheet over it, and it instantly becomes a cave where foxes live, a fort for soldiers to spend the night, or even a castle where the king and queen lives! The play area should be changed regularly with different props or toys to keep the imagination and pretending running wild!
Again, you don't have to go out and spend a lot of money. Some simple items in your home make great pretend play props. And old cardboard box provides many opportunities for a "house". Remember, the saying "We spent all this money on Christmas gifts, and he loves the box the most?" Exactly! Let your children play with your kitchen apron, rolling pin, or even your old cell phone! Know all of those Halloween costumes you spend money on every year? Don't put them in the attic--instead, store them within reach in a crate for your child to dress up any day of the week! My 5 year old fluctuates between Obi-Wan Kanobi to Buzz Lightyear to Spiderman. It's fun!
If you don't have any costumes, there are TONS of opportunities to get some. Consignment shops, your neighbors, or even Etsy :)
This Kids Personalized Superhero Cape is made by CopusHagenDesigns, and is the perfect addition to your costume stash. Yes, my 5 year old wears his when we are walking the dogs every afternoon so he can ward off any danger from my direction. The cool thing about these is you can personalize the color and initial of the cape!
The Felted Pear offers a great selection of Felt Food perfect for imaginative play! What's a trip to the grocery store without food?? Felt food is great because it's soft, more realistic, and washable. I love this basket of Rainbow of Fruits! They also offer sandwiches, pasta, canned tomatoes, sugar, and much more!
This Garden Fairy Set is made by WoodenBling. I just think this is the cutest idea to encourage outdoor pretend play! The set comes with the door, stairs, and "Fairy Lives Here" sign. How adorable! What a great set to encourage your children to enjoy nature all while taking care of their fairy.
Importance of Pretend Play
Play, including pretend play, is how a child learns. Undirected, unrestricted, and imaginative play are the best kinds of play! Pretend play encourages the child to learn about the world around them, in ways that make sense to them. A child can also make sense of scary things by pretending.
You may notice that your child wants to pretend to be a doctor and perform a checkup right before their own Dr.'s visit. This is because they are making sense of what will happen while at the doctor. Pretending to be the doctor comforts them and prepares them for when they are the patient. Pretend play prepares the child for adulthood, as well as teaches them how to interact with the world. A child NEEDS pretend play in their life!
Until next time,
Erica's shop eLeMeNO-P Kids offers toys for the learning child.