We’ve all heard the phrase
‘they’ve got so many toys but all they want to do is play with the box!’
Why is this? And is it such a bad thing if they do play with a box?
In my opinion, no! Playing with the box is a great opportunity for imaginative play. That box has the potential to be anything! It can be a rocket blasting off to space, a shop to buy food or a fire engine to put out fires.
So what is Imaginative Play?
Imaginative play is extremely important as it helps children make sense of the world around them.
By acting out situations they have experienced, from going to see the doctor to looking after their baby sister, they are processing their thoughts and helping themselves to understand them.
What are the other benefits of imaginative play?
- Develops language and communication skills. A lot of imagitive play involves conversations and imaginative play gives children an opportunity to practice speaking in an informal environment and sometimes without an audience (ideal for children who lack a bit of confidence).
- Practice social skills they have learnt and seen. As their language develops they can also experiment with role playing negotiations, arguments, turn taking, sharing and making friends. And again, all these are practiced in the comfort zone of play.
- Reduces anxiety about situations past, present or upcoming. For example playing dentist at home may help build confidence for an upcoming dental appointment, by building up their understanding of what will happen when they go. And playing with a baby doll may help them adjust to a new sibling.
- It develops Creative Thinking Skills. By having to pretend and imagine, children develop these useful skills that they will need to develop new ideas and solve problems.
- It can help parents identify any problems/worries. Imaginative play can also be like a window into their lives as children will often act out situations that they have experienced. For example they may play with one toy by getting it to ‘shout’ at another toy after they have been shouted at by another child.
What activities can develop imaginative play?
For true imaginative play, you’d ideally aim for the child to come up with the ideas themselves. But as long as you don’t take over the game, there’s no harm in giving them some ideas and helping set up.
Here are a few ideas of pretend world play you can help facilitate (click on each topic to see pictures of what we did!)
- Post offices
- Zoo Keepers
- Construction site
- Pretend DIY
- The bank
- Teddy bear picnic
- Phone calls with Old Mobile Phones
We’d love your ideas! Please get in touch.