I'm sure you will have heard of the importance of play in early childhood, and have the house decor to prove it: toys, dolls and games for preschoolers in every corner. But why is it that your child has a full race track set, but uses your arms as roads instead? (Hello, free massage!) Why were they far more interested in turning a box into a car than the gift that came in that box? These pretend games and fantasies have a name: imaginative play - and it turns out it's especially important during the early years. Here are just a few of the skills developed by imaginative play, and some tips to encourage it:
1. Language Skills
Narration is a crucial part of imaginative play. To make their fantasy seem more real, or to share it with other people, kids will often resort to describing their every action. As your child re-enacts different scenarios, they will learn new words they wouldn't usually use. Often, they have picked these up from conversations they have heard or shows that have inspired them.
Want to lend them a helping hand? Put on a play with them. Grab any props you have to hand (puppets, dolls, pieces of cardboard - whatever works) and let your child dictate the plot. While telling tales of dinosaurs fighting superheroes, they'll be listening carefully to the words you use - remembering them for future adventures!
2. Problem-Solving Skills
Imaginative play provides your child with a wide range of problems to solve. Whether it's deciding who gets to play the leading role, or finding just the right materials to make an exoskeleton for their teddy, your child will develop important critical thinking skills.
Next time you play with your child, consider leaving the toy box and using something else instead - a plain cardboard box. With fantasy play, a cardboard box can be anything: a house, a car, a plane, a robot. Give your little one a box, telling them you've found something amazing. Watch for a while and see what they do. Then, jump in and enjoy the wonders of their imagination.
3. Social & Emotional Skills
When your child engages in imaginative play, they are experimenting with different roles and characters. As they walk in someone else's shoes, they will start to develop the all-important skill of empathy. By discovering they can be just about anything, they will also build their self-esteem and confidence.
Give your child some inspiration with our latest show, The Shadownsters. In this sweet series, a 6-year-old named Solomon enjoys acting as a brave viking with his best friend Pancho - a dragon toy who comes alive every time Solomon is afraid. Through imaginative play, Solomon learns to face his fear of the dark, telling incredible tales of shadow monsters along the way.
Discover The Shadownsters and so much more in the Curious World App. Click here for 20% off your first year (discount applied at checkout).