The benefits of imaginative play, otherwise known as 'pretend play', 'creative play', or 'dramatic play', are sometimes dismissed because well, how can anything important be such fun?!
Luckily, we know that pretending together is truly the best way to build our children's independence, to help them see from multiple perspectives and process emotions. And once we start to pretend with our children, we find opportunities for them to learn through play throughout our time together: within our daily routines, during excursions, in play time, and even in difficult moments. And besides benefiting our children’s development, our efforts as parents and teachers to encourage learning through play are rewarded with a strong, trusting connection with our children...
#2 Learning Through Play – Emotions
From birth, babies recognise your face. They are mesmerised, calmed and entertained by your exaggerated facial expressions. As they grow, they learn to recognise emotions by watching you - feeling sad when they see a sad face, and happy when you smile. Adults who express themselves in 'pretend play' with a range of emotions teach children to recognise, name, express, and then manage those emotions in themselves.
#2 Learning Through Play – Relationships
When you pretend with a child, they learn that you will listen to them and that you value their ideas. They also develop an interest in YOUR ideas, emotions, and problems. Communicating in a playful, imaginative way is the best way to develop a strong relationship with your child.
#3 Learning Through Play – Language
Because children LOVE to play pretend, they are able to learn vocabulary that might otherwise be out of reach. Play results in children who are strongly motivated to express themselves verbally, even when speech is an area of concern, and it’s by far the most effective way for children to learn how to listen to each other.
Check out our nursery rhymes lesson to see how using imagination and descriptive language improves your Circle Time or 'singing time' at home!
#4 Learning Through Play – Physical Development
Establish an imaginary world in your living room or at the park and watch your children move! With the tiniest imaginative suggestion from you, your children will be climbing mountains, stomping in puddles, or balancing on a log, building their physical strength and motor control. Try this in a group and see how children learn spatial sense and control over their own movements.
#5 Learning Through Play – Trailing difficult situations
Because children learn through play, imaginative play is the best way to teach a child to cope with difficult situations. Pretend trips to the dentist, on an aeroplane, or even playdate can make the real thing feel much easier.
#6 Learning Through Play – Understanding the world
Only through pretend can children visit the moon, fix a car, or dive to the bottom of the ocean. Extending their learning through play by sharing an imaginary adventure is the most natural way to stretch your children’s understanding of the world around them, not to mention understanding other people’s perspectives.
#7 Learning Through Play – Sense of Self
In pretend play, children can do absolutely anything that they set their minds to! This transfers to a sense of self-efficacy and the confidence to try new things in real life.To a child who might be struggling to meet the milestones of riding a bike, tying shoes, or getting a glass of water, solving problems in a pretend world can provide a welcome confidence boost.
#8 Learning Through Play – Wellbeing
Studies have shown that play is as important to our happiness and wellbeing as love and work. Check out our activity pack, 'The Way I Feel' to find 6 weeks full of simple activities to enrich your life with pretend play.