Imaginative play benefits include a child feeling focused, confident, and joyful! Pretending is a magical time of discovery!
What Parents Need to Know about Imaginative Play Benefits
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“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”- Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison.
Have you ever felt frustrated that all your child wants to do is play? Trust me, you are not alone. However, playtime might not be all bad (as we sometimes mistakenly think it is). Imaginative play benefits almost every aspect of childhood. It is a time where children are free to discover and explore without stress, pressure, or judgment.
So, next time your son or daughter ignores your request to come and help in the kitchen, take a deep breath and remember that “play is a necessity”.
Why Imaginative Play is Important
One of the main benefits of imaginative play is an increase in self-esteem. During imaginative play, children can be anything they want to be: a doctor, an astronaut, or even a worm farmer. As children pretend play, they get to experience a variety of different roles. These experiences will help shape their passions and goals for the future.
Imaginative play benefits children by presenting them with problems to solve. If a child is playing house, for example, they might have a variety of problems to solve. Who will take care of the baby? How will the couple make money to support the family? What will mom do if her baby gets sick? Where will dad or mom go to work? These conundrums stretch a child’s thinking ability and problem-solving skills.
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During imaginative play, children learn how to cooperate with other children who are involved in the game. This interaction is extremely beneficial for children who are often prone to act egocentrically. Children learn to see things from another person’s perspective and have increased empathy for other children’s feelings. Similarly, children learn how to share, take turns, and negotiate during imaginative play. Bonus: these increased interactions encourage language skill development.
Imaginative Play Preferences Throughout the Years
At different ages, children prefer different types of imaginative play. In order for you to be able to help your child experience imaginative play benefits, it is important for you to know which types of play is best for the age of your child. Here is a basic guideline to use:
2 to 3 Years
At this age, children are beginning to enjoy the world of role-playing. Toddlers may begin to pretend to be mommy, daddy, or baby brother. Realistic toys facilitate role-playing at this stage. Think telephones, car keys, purses, dolls, etc.
4 to 5 Years
Children are drawn to drama and love to create elaborate stories to act out with their friends. Play with friends becomes more interactive, as children are learning how to communicate better with others. Again, these children enjoy utilizing realistic toys to facilitate their role-playing.
6 to 8 Years
At this stage, children have developed enhanced fine-motor skills. Children enjoy creating or constructing whatever they can imagine. Playdough, legos, blocks, or wood sticks and glue will help these children create whatever their hearts desire!
9 to 12 Years
Pre-teens also love constructing and creating. They might want to write a play and act it out, build a teacup out of clay, or create a replica of their favorite superhero out of legos. Children at this stage perform imaginative play with more precision and attention to detail.
The Big Obstacle of Imaginative Play
The biggest obstacle to imaginative play is screen time. A recent study conducted by Common Sense Media found that children ages 0-8 spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes per day in front of a screen. Let that sink in for a moment.
If we imagine that children attend school for roughly 8 hours a day (getting home around 3:30 or 4 pm), and then go to bed around 8 pm, that leaves them with approximately 2 hours that they are not in front of a screen. From the moment they wake up until they go to sleep, children only have 2 hours of “free” time to play, eat, do homework, get ready for bed, do chores, and spend quality time with family. Something has got to change. You can make that happen!
Whether it is television programs, mobile devices, computers, or tablets, screen time must be limited so that children have opportunities for imaginative play. Screen time steals valuable opportunities for children to grow and explore through play; not to mention taking away from family time and academic pursuits.
Encouraging Imaginative Play
If you want to foster imaginative play in your home, one great way is to set aside a safe and inviting room in your home that is designated for imaginative play. Fill this space with items that will spark creativity and encourage your child to build a world of fantasy.
Large cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, old clothing, shoes, hats, cooking tools, locks, costumes, blankets, dolls, playdough, paper, and crayons are just a few of the items you might put in this room. Make sure that these objects spark creativity and are completely safe for your child to use.
Fanning the flames of fantasy within your child is easier than you might think! If you see your child sitting in front of the television, turn it off and send them to the toy room instead. Have designated imaginative playtime, and enforce it fiercely. Imaginative play benefits will soon emerge, and I promise you’ll notice a difference in the temperament of your child.
What are some things your kids like to play with that are just normal everyday items sitting around your house? Let us know in the comments!
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Michele is a Family Life Educator. She is a mom to 5 kids and loves helping others strengthen their families! When she is not blogging she is spending time with her family and running around drinking Diet Coke trying to get everything done!