Why should we be encouraging our children in their imaginative play?

Have  you ever noticed how young children begin to play imaginatively?

Early on, they will pretend to feed a teddy, or make a plane fly through the air. Has your child set up a shop or restaurant and demanded that you come and visit as the customer? These are exciting developmental stages that give us some insight into our children’s language and cognitive development.

Here are 5 reasons why pretend play is important:

  • Pretend play allows your child to practice using symbols, and is an important precursor to language development.
  • Pretend play can expose your child to new words that they may not necessarily experience in everyday routines e.g. pirate, rescue, fairy, etc.
  • Pretend play helps your child to learn to play with others.
  • Pretend play gives your child the opportunity to take on the role of another person or character, helping them to see a situation from their perspective. This is important for developing empathy and social awareness.
  • Pretend play is also known as symbolic play. When a child begins to engage in pretend play they show they are developing an understanding of symbolism, the concept that something can ‘stand in’ for something else. They learn that words are spoken symbols that can stand in for their thoughts and ideas. This is why we see pretend play emerging between 12 – 18 months, around the same time as your child’s first words.

Tips for developing pretend play:

  • Get into your child’s world. Sit close and get face-to-face so that your child feels connected and can see your gestures and pretend actions.
  • Wait and see what your child is interested in. Put out a range of toys and follow their lead.
  • Take a turn. If your child doesn’t know how to get started, give them some ideas. For example, if they are interested in the picnic set, use the cup to give the teddy a drink. Wait and see what your child does.
  • Copy your child’s actions. This will motivate them to keep going.
  • Expand on the play sequence. Add some extra actions to the play routine. Wait and see what your child does next.
  • Add some extra ideas into your child’s pretend play. For older children, throw in an unexpected event and see what happens. For example, what happens when you as the customer refuse the food your waiter serves you?

Have tonnes of fun together. Remember; each time you play with your child you are encouraging their creativity, developing their language skills, and building their thinking skills!

Alison