The benefits of imaginative play



1. Why is imaginative play so important for children?

Imaginative play, or free play where playtime is unstructured, is fundamental to early childhood development because children learn through play. Playing, in general, allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, their dexterity as well as physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths. 

2. The benefits of role playing

Play basically prepares children for life. It teaches them mental and emotional strength and they also gain knowledge of how to behave in certain situations. Children will role play in order to try out situations, see what it feels like to be, for example, “a teacher”, “a mom”, “a baby”, “a baddie”, their favourite superhero and the list goes on. 

3. Play makes everything possible

Free play allows children to create their own worlds and master those worlds. This is one of the reasons that children enjoy playing with toys. They can use their imaginations and create imaginary worlds where nothing is impossible – their toys can fly, become invisible or turn into something else. 

girl astronaut
Image: iStock

4. Developing new skills

Through play with other children, kids develop new skills, they become more confident and lean how to be resilient. This interaction also allows children to learn how to work together, solve problems together, share, negotiate and resolve conflicts – all tools that they will need as they grow older.

5. Play outdoors

Unfortunately there has been a decline in outdoor play, especially in urban areas. Parents need to make a point of taking their children outdoors, to a nearby park and let them climb trees, play on the jungle gyms and run free in a wide open space. This type of activity will help with muscle development, muscle strength, co-ordination and balance.

6. Easy games to get kids playing

Children love adventure games, so give them a scenario and let them play it out. For example: you’re at the top of a volcano, it’s about to erupt and you have to save your baby sister. You are the hero, what do you do? Let them run, jump and climb their way out of the imaginary scenario.

Another favourite is “crocodile, crocodile” where kids need to jump over or cross imaginary rivers and avoid falling in and being eaten by crocs. Kids will love to hop, jump and balance their way across these “rivers”.

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