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Imaginative Play Benefits and How To Encourage It

Imaginative play, or pretend play, is not only fun for our little ones; it’s essential for their healthy development.

While hosting a tea party, or pretending to be an aeroplane flying through a field doesn’t look like much, your child is developing their imagination, and skills in critical thinking, problem solving and self-expression.

Imaginative play is often experimenting with the social and emotional aspects of real life.

It’s a tool we as adults also apply in a grown up way. We need to ‘imagine’ different scenarios as we make every day choices in order to problem solve, and be aware of possible outcomes.

It only comes naturally to us because we practiced it through imaginative play as a child.

How often does your child repeat a sentence you didn’t realise you said so often? (Sometimes to your horror!) Or act out a gesture you realise is yours.

The act of mimicking helps them learn from what’s happening around them, and develop their social skills.

It’s how they make sense of the world and begin to identify with grown ups.

Some children fall into imaginative play easily, others may need a little bit more encouragement and guidance.

It’s important they learn how to use their imagination to act out the world from their perspective, and to enjoy being anything they want to be.

Here are some great ideas to help your little one grow by using their imagination


Imaginative play Ideas

Provide a space that is dedicated to imaginative play. This could be a play corner, a sandpit, or a space outside. Sandpits are great for imaginative play.

Try changing the props and toys to suit a certain theme. Perhaps items for a beach holiday, a prehistoric adventure, or a mud/sand kitchen.


If you need to keep the kids occupied while you’re trying to cook, provide some utensils and a space near the kitchen where they can prepare an imaginary meal too.

Dress ups and prop boxes are great for role-playing.

If you can regularly change the clothes and props, and only make it available periodically, your child will look forward to finding what’s new, and is less likely to get bored with it.

Tepees or a simple sheet draped over a table make an ideal hidey spot away from other distractions, where they can unleash their imagination.

Kids love playing with their parents. Interact with your child as they engage in pretend play.

If they’re making a phone call, pretend to answer your phone. If they serve you a pretend meal, ask them for a little more sauce.

You may be surprised how much you can get done as you verbally interact with your little pretender.

But remember, when it comes to imaginative play, they’re in charge of the plot.

It’s lovely getting some insight into how their little minds are absorbing the world around them.

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