Visit any of our Early Birds Edcuation & Childcare centres during ‘free play’ time, and you will most likely walk into a world of imagination with children pretending to be someone else, somewhere else, doing something else.
Often referred to as ‘Imaginative Play‘, also known as ‘fantasy’ or ‘imaginary’ play, this behaviour is ever-present and absolutely central to early childhood development.
Studies show varying outcomes, however quite a few prove a distinct relationship between imaginative play and children’s abilities to develop creatively, gain awareness of others and advance social skills. Whether these benefits are correlational or causative, it can be unclear. So what are the actual benefits of ‘make-believe’ play?
As Early Childhood Educators, teaching through a play based learning program, there’s a few things we know for sure:
Children gain a better understanding of the world around them.
Imaginative play encourages children’s social development through simultaneously behaving as themselves and as someone else. These pretend play experiences give children a chance to view the world from different perspectives, thus giving them a way to practice and understand other people and their experiences.
Playing ‘Make Believe’ can be a fun challenge that requires thinking about two ways of being at once, all while learning the nuances of various relationships, roles and identities.
As children progress towards imagining more complex ‘characters’ and ‘storylines’, they begin the process of more advanced problem solving and critical thinking. These are essential learning dispositions which prepare children for the transistion to school and beyond.
Children Cultivate Valuable Communication Skills
When children play make-believe with educators and other children in the classroom, they are constantly considering the best way to express themselves and how to respond to others.
In this instance, children learn communication skills which happen in real-world interactions. They must engage in sophisticated levels of negotiation, compromise, cooperation and coordination to keep the play scenario moving forward.
Skills which prove to be invaluable as they progress towards managing the social constructs of school life and adulthood.
What can Parents & Guardians do to Benefit their children from Imaginitive Play?
Firstly, children love to play ‘make believe’ and are usually motivated to do so. So, there’s not much you have to do to encourage this type of play, as it comes quite naturally.
However, adults who want to foster empathetic, communicative and cooperative individuals would do well to think about how lessons related to these skills are embedded in imaginative play.
So, what are you waiting for? LETS PLAY pretend!