Tips and Tricks : Imaginative Play
A really important part of early childhood development is imaginative play. There are TONS of studies and articles that you can read about if you want to (PBS article, Bright Horizons, Wall Street Journal, and you can find many more just by doing a cursory google search!)
Ok, now bear with me here, I am going to explain what imaginative play is. It is kids. Playing. And using their imaginations while they do it. That’s it. Something each and every one of you did growing up! (A very early memory: One Christmas my sister and I got a toy kitchen set, one of my first actions was to “cook” dinner. What did I do? Dial “1-800-DOMINOS.” and say “hi, I’d like to order a pizza please.” I was playing “adult.”)
Why is this so important? Well, it helps develop creativity. Communication. Compromise. Cooperation. You know, important parts of being a functioning human in society.
For example, in the library I work in we have fairly large toy dinosaurs, two different types of blocks (big soft foam blocks and smaller, wooden blocks), a toy barn (much like a dollhouse) that came with animals, and a felt board with different felt pieces to move around (right now it is super heroes and the dog from Dog’s Colorful Day). These things are ALWAYS in use. Kids like to build forts around the barn with the blocks, give the dinosaurs their Jurassic Park moments by stomping into the barn and sending the animals flying, building race car tracks with the blocks, pretending the dinosaurs are superheroes, or the felt superheroes are saving the dinosaurs…it doesn’t end.
These kids often create these things on their own and then share what they’ve done with new arrivals. They are communicating what the scenario is and cooperating enough to let someone else play. The first child often finds that their game shifts direction with the new person, and they decide to compromise to play a new game. Because if they don’t…well playing something is better than not playing at all!
How can you foster imaginative play? Provide the time and provide the space. I bet most of you do this already! Let your little play with dolls or stuffed animals, with blocks, give them an empty box and see what they come up with. Get down on the ground and play with them. Go back in time and be a kid again with your little, they will love it! Read a book with them (picture walk perhaps?) and let the imagination run wild!
OR. If you want something different…check out your library! We always encourage play 🙂