Encouraging Imagination

Tips and tricks to encourage imaginative play with children.

The Modern Dad

The joy of imaginative play.

There is nothing better than listening to your children use their imaginations. Often our 5 year old will ask “Mom, can I use my imagination?” We smile every time we hear it. Did you know that when young children use their imaginations in play, they’re more creative, perform better at school and develop a strong problem-solving approach to learning. Pretending benefits children on every level.

The Modern Dad

Tips and Tricks.

Here are some tips and tricks to encourage imaginative play.

  1. Imaginative play must be taught. Some kids come wired with the creative mind but most children need it modeled for them. We’ve found that our kids react best when we sit down and play with them. We always start with logical play of house, cars or dolls. Model pretend eating, driving cars or interaction with dolls. Most children will catch on quickly but need to be shown how to begin.
  2. Once you catch your children playing with toys model abstract play. This can be done by taking a toy and changing it’s function. For example, having a dinosaur soccer match, setting up an imagined camp site in the back yard, bringing Star Wars guys into the doll house.
  3. Provide resources for creative play. We love animals, cars, legos, dolls, kitchen accessories, “guys”, dinosaurs, tools and dress ups. Change them often. The rotation of toys always inspires imagination. Check out this post on Imagination Toy Box.
  4. Endure the mess! Most times creative play requires a mess. The more you do it, the more they will do anything, even clean up their mess, to do it again.
  5. Encourage imaginative play! The more they do it the more they will want to do it and every time your involvement will become less and less.

Benefits for imaginative play.

Why is this so important? Creative play benefits social development. Dr Catherine Neilsen-Hewett, a lecturer and researcher in child development, explains: “Imaginative play has the greatest impact on the development of key skills that are important for children’s success with peers. When playing creatively with their friends, your child learns to co-operate and compromise.” Imaginative play encourages social behavior and allows children to model behaviors they see in real life.

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By pretend playing with others, children begin to understand that words give them the power. Imaginative play allows children to express both positive and negative feelings. It also helps him to work through difficult emotions and to understand them.

So next time your kids say they are bored or want to use the iPad, initiate creative play. Some of our favorites have been creating Disneyland in our house, throwing birthday parties for stuffed animals, camp sites in the backyard and zoo trips made by princesses.

The Modern Dad