Imaginative, pretend or make-believe play offers several benefits to kids. Imaginative play fosters creativity and helps develop problem-solving, social and language skills in children. Whether your little one engages in pretend to play with other kids, with you, or when playing with his activity and outdoor toys, you can be sure your child will have fun and acquire a number of new, important skills as well as enhance existing ones.
You can encourage your child to engage more in imaginative play (and allow him to experience more benefits) through the following ways:
1. Give your child space for his imaginative play.
Provide your little one a sufficient area where here can play. Aside from his bedroom, there are other places where he can be inspired to engage in pretend play. These include fixed or built-in wardrobes, the dining area, and the living room.
Play tents and canopies can also create a great place for your little one to fire up his imagination. You can put up these fixtures indoors and outdoors as well so that your kid can use them anytime. However, make sure these play corners or imaginative play areas always have different toys and props so that your child’s imagination is continuously stimulated.
2. Allow your child to play outdoors.
The outdoors has so many things to offer to kids. As such, encourage your child to play outside, especially when the weather is nice.
Various types of simple outdoor activities can spark your child’s imagination:
- Raking leaves
- Watering plants
- Removing Weeds
- Shoveling snow.
Before your little one starts doing or helping you out with these activities, provide items that can be used for their pretend play — supplies that can be used to make a snowman, paint or dye to color the snow, shells or pebbles, shovels and buckets that can be used for playing with leaves and soil or sand, etc.
3. Provide your child with the right props and open-ended toys.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on toys and other items that will boost your child’s creativity and imagination. You can start by giving your little one some items you already have at home which he can use as props. Cardboard boxes, especially large ones, can become anything in the imaginary world, for example.
If you want to invest in some toys and products that your little one can use for pretend play, opt for:
- Arts and crafts supplies
- Dress-up clothes and hats
- Animals, clay, and building block set such as a Cubio basic set.
These are some examples of toys that will require your child’s essential input to make them come to life.
4. Give your child opportunities to role-play.
Pave the way for your little one to engage in pretend play. You can start by involving him in some daily chores and integrate incidental learning into these situations. For instance, while baking, have your child cook and bake alongside you with some clay and other toys.
Reading to your child regularly will also expose him to a variety of stories, scenarios, and experiences. Taking your little one to interesting places such as the zoo, park or museum will also allow him to discover and explore new experiences. These activities will give children more experiences and ideas for their imaginative play.
5. Be involved.
Lastly, be involved and present whenever your child is engaged in pretend play. If there are no other kids around, your little one will always enjoy playing with you. However, keep the play child-directed and let your child have control over the flow of the play. Simply take on the role of an actor and follow your child’s directions. In case your child tells you he wants to play on his own, respect his decision.
If your child is playing with other kids, you have to supervise the play. You need to monitor all of the kids’ behaviors, making sure everyone plays fair and no one gets involved in rough play. Monitoring your child’s play with his playmates is an important job where you, as a parent, can step in and enable them to learn problem-solving skills and find a solution that will work for everyone.
However, keep in mind that you don’t have to be too strict and intrusive if your child is playing with other kids. Social play is a great way for your little one to enhance his skills in group interactions. If there is a disagreement in the group, allow them to work things out themselves up to a certain point before you get involved. But in the event that teasing, name-calling, and physical aggression come up, step in immediately even if the kids do not ask for help.
An imaginative and creative play is a more natural way for your child to learn about the world. It is a healthier way for children to play as well. As such, take a proactive role in encouraging and fostering this type of play in your little one whenever possible.
About The Author:
Sreeya Patil Wiesner is the founder of EcoToys. She started her online toy store with an aim to provide healthy, safe and eco-friendly wooden toys to kids 0-6 years of age in the UAE.