“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein
Einstein knew it, and leading researchers like Stuart Brown agree, unstructured, child lead, imaginative play is vital for normal social, emotional and cognitive development.
Children naturally engage in imaginative play and given a chance they will imagine, play and learn with little adult interaction or encouragement. This type of holistic, unstructured learning encompasses all areas of a childs development. Learning is not isolated to one narrow, adult directed area as children practice and learn to integrate a wide variety of skills including; sharing, problem solving, maths and literacy skills, innovation, language, negotiation, concentration, working together, fine and gross motor skills and so much more.
Offering many opportunities for imaginative play also offers children a way to understand their world and cope with stresses. Since children learn best by doing (rather than reading or listening) and experiencing things in a real, tangible way, imaginative play is one of the best ways a child can assimilate new information, work through any worries and practice confidence and problem solving. Taking on the pretend role of mother, teacher or tiger or playing house, doctors or picnics a child plays out scenarios in a safe, comfortable environment while they learn and grow.
Imaginative play begins as a young toddler uses one object to represent another – such as a block becoming a car. Three year olds are just beginning to become involved in lots of fantasy and make believe play, using what you know about their interests and development to set up play scenes and offer props will encourage their
imaginations to run wild. Preschool children (and older) need little encouragement to let their imaginations take over. Imaginative play is a fabulous tool and learning opportunity for school aged children also, who often miss out on this kind of free play.
Given uninterrupted time and a variety of open ended toys and equipment children will create and engage in complex play scenes for long periods of time.
Even the simplest props will excite a childs imagination and there are many beautiful toys and items you can buy to further build your imaginative play accessories. Dress-ups, home play props, sand, water, natural materials, wooden blocks, recycled materials, animals, vehicles, dolls, puppets, play dough or clay, music, and so much more are wonderful prompts for imaginative play. Once you start using your own imagination when choosing play things youll be surprised at all the wonderful options.
Imaginative play offers great value to a child and many learning experiences. Encouraging and supporting imaginative play will not only make our kids smarter, it also makes them kinder, helps to alleviate stress and build self-esteem. Plus its heaps of fun!