Play is crucial for any little one’s developing imagination – but the good news is that you can facilitate it in so many ways! Imaginative play, or roleplay or pretend play, is so important because it gives growing children the opportunity to experiment with what they understand of the world, explore boundaries and help develop their own identity. Imaginative play for toddlers is fantastic. It helps them learn the basics of everyday life and get to grips with certain rules while at the same time developing their imagination and a grasp of what’s real and fantasy.
Here, we look in detail at why creative play for children is vital for their development and consider which skills it sets up for life.
Learning through play
Whether they’re tucking their favourite doll in for naptime, pretending to be a shopkeeper or running around with a tea towel wrapped around them while being a superhero, little ones simply think they’re ‘playing’ – but they’re actually doing so much more. They’re setting the groundwork for skills that’ll help them through later life. They’re building their personality traits and a sense of identity. They’re learning how to be problem-solvers and how to manage their emotions. Eventually, they’ll learn how to apply all this learning to everyday scenarios. At this age, through imaginative play, they’re actually embarking on the most incredible journey – one in which they can explore all kinds of scenarios without being limited by the physical world.
Take a look at all the skillsets this type of play develops:
In creative play, children are fostering skills that will see them thrive in social scenarios. They’re developing empathy and becoming considerate of others’ feelings. They’re learning who they are as individuals and what their role is within the world, as well as gaining a better understanding of other roles in the world (when they pretend to be a bus driver or a baker, for example). And while toddlers can be selfish at times, it’s through this type of play they begin to recognise the need for sharing, turn-taking and collaboration. Step forward negotiation skills!
Confidence and self-esteem
Ever sat back and just listened to your little one’s roleplay? It makes for quite interesting viewing and gives insight into their thoughts and feelings – about themselves and others around them. You’ll soon see their confidence rocketing. Through imaginative play, they can test out riskier scenarios that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the real world and it enables them to push boundaries and see how they feel about it.
What’s more fun than setting up a pretend tea party or exploring an imaginary deep, dark forest? While their imaginations are getting stretched, so are their limbs – this type of play is great for building physical strength as it’s extremely active.
Language and communication skills
This one’s a biggie – children who engage in imaginative play are given a prime opportunity to learn about the power of language. Words are given meanings and they quickly pick up on the cause and effect of certain behaviours. During imaginative play, they’re exposed to new vocabulary as they explore different scenarios and this can be a great tool for parents to use to ease worry about upcoming events. Doll play can help anxiety about an upcoming hospital visit, for example.
In pretend play, children are trying out new ideas all the time. They’re problem-solving and stretching how they think. Particularly in group play, little ones will need to use their thinking skills to work out how to share and turn-take, which roles to take on and what to do if something doesn’t work as they expected it to. This play is developing their problem-solving abilities and helping them gain a better understanding of the world around them.
We’d love to see what your little one gets up to when they’re using their imagination! Head over to Instagram and upload images of their exciting roleplay. Be sure to keep an eye on our Facebook page too to keep up to date with everything BABY born.