The Benefits of Imaginative Play

Imaginative play is incredibly important, yet it always surprises me when I come across its many benefits. Children naturally engage in imaginative play. Who hasn’t played ice cream shop with imaginary cones and outrageous flavours? Who hasn’t laid on the couch and let a young child doctor them up?

 

When I go to preschools for my other job (the one that isn’t writing), one of the observation criteria I look for are materials that encourage imaginative play: dress-up clothes, a child-sized kitchen, blocks and materials that are open-ended and don’t require a predetermined way of playing. These types of toys encourage children to use their imaginations while playing.

 

While cleaning up my home office, I came across some notes from Anne K. Soderman’s Scaffolding Emergent Literacy listing the benefits of imaginative play:

·      uses abstract thought

·      strengthens memory

·      develops sophisticated language

·      develops social skills

 

These are not the only benefits of imaginative play. Imaginative play decreases frustration and increases flexible thinking. It’s an important component in developing executive function, which is a host of important skills including impulse control and focusing attention. There’s more, but why not go off and exercise that imagination instead?

 

The Importance of Imaginative Play

Because my background is in education and special education, and I do some contract work for an educational foundation, I'm always interested in the latest research. Lately, at work, we've been talking about something called executive function, which is extremely important in early childhood. It's an umbrella term that refers to the brain's ability to plan, organize, strategize, pay attention and remember details. And, it turns out that imaginative play, especially in early childhood, may help develop executive function!

Whatever you want to call it--pretend play, make-believe, fantasy play, imaginative play--it's important for the kids in your life. So pull out the dress-up clothes, put on that stethoscope, or grab those pots and pans and mix up a huge batch of imaginative play.

Tariq H. from Mississauga, Ontario, reimagined Salad Pie, falling down the slide, and his teacher sent me this detailed (and labeled!) drawing. Thank you, Tariq!

Tariq H. from Mississauga, Ontario, reimagined Salad Pie, falling down the slide, and his teacher sent me this detailed (and labeled!) drawing. Thank you, Tariq!