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, dexterity and physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths.
The benefits of role-playing
Play prepares children for life, as it strengthens their mental and emotional development and provides the opportunity to learn how to behave in certain situations. Children will role-play in order to try out situations and to see what it feels like to be someone or something else, such as a teacher, mom, baby, baddie, favourite superhero, and the list goes on.
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.
Developing new skills
Through play with other children, kids develop new skills, they become more confident and learn 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.
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 where they can 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.
Easy games to get kids playing
Children love adventure games, so give them a scenario and let them play it out. For example, tell them: “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 crocodiles. Kids will love to hop, jump and balance their way across these “rivers”.
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Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.