My kids have BIG imaginations. They’re always telling me what they’re “a-tenin (pretending) to be.”
Don’t get me wrong, this can be really annoying sometimes, like when my 2-year-old only wants to meow to let me know she needs something. But on the flip side of the coin, I know it’s one of the most important (and educational!) things they can do.
There have been numerous studies done (just google it), but the underlying theme is that imaginative play is something preschool-aged children (especially) need for mental growth. So how do we facilitate this? I don’t know about you, but being an imaginative mom is hard sometimes!
Let’s take a step back first: What is imaginative play?
Imaginative play is a role-playing “pretend” structure for play, in which the child(ren) act out sequences or events of importance to them (my definition, derived from research).
Key point: Children learn primarily through experience.
So you ask: How can I encourage imaginative play?
Make space for it. This can be as simple as throwing a sheet over a table (“Look, it’s a tent/cave/house!”) or building a fort out of cushions. We’ve even used masking tape on the floor. The sky is the limit… Use whatever is on hand to create whatever scenarios you (or they) can think up.
Give tools for it. Our little girls LOVE dressing up in poofy skirts and fake heels and stocking their little pink purses with toys. They also take any old blocks and put them in plastic cups and bowls and serve up “smoothies” and “cookies” and anything else they can “cook” up. Our sons (yes, even the 9-month-old) and daughters enjoy packing up kid-sized backpacks for a “trip,” and getting all their stuffed animals and toys coordinated. It’s adorable. And, yes, educational.
Do it with them. Though my kids all love to use their imaginations when encouraged, there are some times that they are just uninterested (kind of like we, as adults, get writer’s block or would rather sit on the couch than wash the dishes). However, nine times out of ten, if one of us will sit down and play with them, sparking the ideas and initiating the story-building, they light up with renewed interest.
There are so many different approaches to learning for young children. Some parents choose to send them to preschool when they’re very little, and others let them learn as daily life takes its turn, only encouraging educational activities as interest shows itself (montessori, unschooling, etc). It’s not so important how our children learn–just that they do, in fact, learn. Whether they are at home or at preschool, when it’s your turn to teach them, encourage imaginative play.
But wait… Didn’t you say there was a contest?
Why yes, yes indeed! We are thrilled to be participating in–and offering you all–a contest that will get your little ones (and you) creative and active together!
Are you ready? Click the link below!