Imaginative play is the inspiration behind Another World. It began in response to a request from my eldest child’s reception teacher for some bright and sparkly superhero capes for use in imaginative play sessions during their ‘superhero week’ at school.
“Logic will get you from A to Z; imagination will get you everywhere.”
– Albert Einstein
I received wonderful feedback at the end of the week about how much the children had enjoyed wearing the capes, using them as a tool for their imagination and supporting their role play.
As a parent, I’d always recognised how much my children enjoyed imaginative play at home, be that making pretend pizza or fairy cakes using playdough, creating a Jurassic world in their sandpit or being explorers in the jungle of rhubarb on the allotment! But why is it so important?
Imaginative play is the acting out of stories. It’s all about curiosity, discovery, exploration and experimentation. It helps children make sense of the world. It nurtures creativity and gives children the freedom to conjure up all kinds of characters and adventures, from the familiar to the fantastical. Think running a café or post office, a trip to the vet, enjoying a woodland picnic, exploring a magical kingdom, sailing the high seas or travelling to the moon! Here are some of the benefits of imaginative play.
Language Development: Talking through play is natural for children and imaginative play is great for vocabulary building and language development. It provides them with the opportunity to experiment with new words and phrases they might have heard in stories but may not ordinarily use.
It enables them to tell stories in their own words, create and share their own stories and develop story language.
Social Skills: Imaginative play helps children learn how to interact and communicate with each other, by sharing thoughts and ideas . It encourages co-operation, collaboration, compromise, working in a group and taking turns. Children are also practising their negotiating skills and begin to recognise the need to appreciate other people’s feelings as they agree on character roles, story lines, rules and limits.
Emotional Development: Processing and managing emotions is an important part of imaginative play. Situations arise, for example, in which not everyone gets what they want.
Maybe more than one child wishes to be the same character or wear the same costume, or somebody else would like the story line to go in a different direction!
I clearly remember being at nursery (I was probably about 4 years old) and not wanting to let anybody else in the playhouse as I’d arranged everything just as I’d wanted it and wasn’t prepared to have others rearrange what I’d set out!
Children are learning how to sit with disappointment and manage their emotions positively, by dealing with a variety of confrontations and resolutions in order for play to continue.
Pretending to be a different character enables a child to walk in someone else’s shoes and see the world from a different perspective. Children experiment with different emotions when thinking about how this character might think and act and, as a result, begin to understand what empathy is. Imaginative play provides children with an opportunity to explore different gender identities and the behaviours of those characters.
Cognitive Ability: Children are forming and reinforcing their memory during imaginative play as they recall details from a story or situation they’ve seen or heard before. They learn to think for themselves and begin to understand cause and effect. It encourages them to think through scenarios and find the best outcomes – ‘what would be the best medicine to make this poorly cat better?’ ‘what will happen if pirates land on our island?’ Or ‘how will we cross this river full of crocodiles?‘
Children have an aptitude for creativity and when presented with problems to solve, they are very good at coming up with all kinds of innovative solutions to the same problem. They learn to see things in different ways and think outside the box.
Physical Development: Children develop both fine and gross motor skills during imaginative play. Fine motor skills are used when putting on dressing up costumes themselves. They are using their hands to adjust the clothes as well as work out the fastenings such as velcro, ties, zips and buttons.
When choosing their character’s movements, be that running around, jumping, hopping, skipping or twirling, they are busy using their gross motor skills.
As adults, we continue to use our imagination everyday to problem solve, make decisions, think innovatively. It creates possibilities by making us think of a bigger picture, whether we are Einsteins or not! We are never too young or old to nurture our imagination.