Think back to your childhood. What kind of games did you play? Those days we didn’t have iPads, Xbox and Wii consoles so we made do with what we had: our imagination. Wooden sticks for swords, daddy’s shirts for superhero capes and paper crowns for tiaras; the possibilities were endless. And that’s what imaginative play essentially is – when children role play and act out various experiences by playing pretend.
Imaginative play isn’t all fun and games either; studies have found that this style of play is crucial in the cognitive and social development of children.
So how do you encourage and support imaginative play with your kids? Here are five simple steps:
1. Set a play space
First things first, provide a clean designated space for your child to play in. Keep it safe by setting it away from sockets, wires and other child hazards. If you’re feeling rather ambitious, you can even decorate it to make it look more inviting! The space can be anywhere in your house from the unused corner in the living room or next to the kitchen. For your peace of mind, ensure the space is in your line of sight at all times.
2. Provide toys and props
Playing pretend is always easier with props to help you along the away. If you’re on a budget, use items you can find in the house like old clothes for your child to play dress up in. They can be anything they set their minds to: a pirate, a princess or even a Jedi warrior.
If you don’t mind spending a little bit more, there are toys specially made to aid in imaginative play which further enhance the magic of make believe like these picks from Barbie:
3. Set a playtime
Now that you have the essentials down, it’s time to set the ground rules. You can’t have your child playing the whole day and neglecting their other responsibilities. Setting a specific time and duration for playing enables them to have fun and still have their important nap time. Also, having a schedule teaches them how to manage their time efficiently.
4. Organise play groups
Organise a play group with mums with children in your kid’s age group. These can be arranged to be in indoor or outdoor playgrounds or even in the comfort of your own backyard. Play groups allow your child to develop their social skills and learn how to interact with their peers. Also, it allows you to take a breather and spend time with mums who know what you’re going through!
5. Be their playmate
In the event a play group cannot be organised or you’re home alone with your child, be their playmate! This would be the perfect opportunity to spend uninterrupted quality time with your little one.
By Stephanie Boey
Image Credit: Barbie Malaysia