Importance of Imaginative Play
by Gemma Fox, Head of School
' Logic will get you from A-Z, imagination will get you everywhere' Albert Einstein
Learning through play is recognised in the Early Years as a primary method of learning and development for young children and imaginative play is an essential part of it. Theorists and researchers have identified the values of imaginative play as a vital contributor to a child's development. Imaginative play allows children to reenact things they see, whether they are pretending to be an airplane, or that their teddies are at school. Children take a different perspective on a scenario that enables them to work through emotions and ideas. Their thoughts are moulded and rearranged, which is a key feature for a child's social and cognitive development. By pushing back the barriers of reality children are developing very important life skills. Imaginative play benefits children by increasing their capacity to have cognitive flexibility and ultimately develop creativity. A child that has the opportunity to go into their own imaginative world is able to exercise their brain and to train it to think creatively. The ability to use our imagination is a cognitive skill that we require throughout life, and we need to encourage children to learn how to do this from the start with frequent opportunities for imaginative play. Imaginative play supports social and emotional development. By pretending to be different characters, a child is experimenting with social and emotional roles they have seen in their life. They learn who they are as individuals and how they fit into the world around them, how the world works, what it is like to be someone else. This helps a child to develop empathy, cooperation, and responsibility. Imaginative play benefits children in developing their self-esteem and self-awareness and gives them the freedom to be whoever they want to be by just pretending. Imaginative play allows children to experience and express both positive and negative feelings. They learn to understand emotions, how to deal with them, how to control impulses, learn good manners, and promote positive behaviour. Imaginative play allows children to experiment and learn about the power of language and how it affects them and those around them. It also helps children to understand that words give meaning to their play, and gives an opportunity to express what they have heard (can provide interesting insight for a parent to hear how a child hears them). Introducing a wide range of experiences to children which they can then use in their imaginative play exposes them to new vocabulary. Memories are formed through imaginative play. Children make use of the images that they have created in their minds to recreate past experiences during pretend play. This form of abstract thinking helps them to work out what has happened in any acted out scenario, to learn how to gather and manage their thoughts and reactions to such a scenario, and to mentally solve problems that they may have encountered in these scenarios so that they know how to overcome any difficulties the next time. Imaginative play helps children gain a better understanding of science, the wider world in which they live, and important events that occur around them. Whether a child is discovering space and the solar system by acting out the role of an astronaut or the rocket or is learning about prehistoric times by stomping around the house like a dinosaur, the imaginative play has an essential role in the process.