Let's pretend! The importance of imaginative play

Let's pretend! The importance of imaginative play

Albert Einstein once said: “Logic will take you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere.”

Sitting back and watching your children engage in pretend play is brilliant, (not just because you get to sit down and drink a cup of tea!) you can see their imaginations in action and watch as they mirror the things that you and the other grown-ups do! It can be quite eye-opening!! They are free to be whoever they want to be, Elsa in her ice castle, a scary monster in an enchanted wood, perhaps they’re taking on the role of a teacher by playing schools– it is truly wonderful to see! It may be fun, but it’s also super important for a child’s development, the process of pretending builds essential skills such as:

  1. Advance cognitive development, through make-believe games and storytelling children are more likely to adopt positive learning habits for the future.

  2. Speech and language, while children engage in imaginary play they may use words that you have never heard them use before or regulate their tone to go lower of higher, this is because they are copying conversations they have may listened to or witnessed, so a word of warning, always watch what you say in front of a child or they may embarrass you at the next family party!

  3. Critical thinking, imaginary play puts the child in situations where they need to use problem-solving techniques, playing with the cars and garage, how many cars can they fit on the transporter? what sounds do the trucks make? If they are playing with others are they taking turns, negotiation skills are needed and understanding the concept of sharing.

  4. Ever heard of Roughhousing? Well this is simply when children in imaginary play start to become physical with another child, such as pretend wrestling or pretend fighting superheroes, at one time this was a complete no no!, It was feared that this would lead to a child being aggressive, but now research is showing that in a monitored environment this is completely safe and actually teaches the child to self-regulate its play, not to be too rough and builds resilience.

Anthony De Benedet MD says, this kind of physical play releases a chemical called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which acts like a fertilizer in our brains. Roughhousing stimulates neuron growth within the cortex and hippocampus regions of the brain, responsible for memory, learning, language, and logic. Woah, how cool is that? Animal behaviourists have found that the youngsters of smarter species engage in physical play, so it isn’t surprising that roughhousing boosts school performance.

So, next time you see your little one pretending, just think of all the wonderful skills they are learning! You can nurture their play by creating a prop box, throw in some old clothes, sheets for den making, pegs, bowls, boxes and old jewellery for treasure, the list is endless and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. You never know, if you’re lucky, they may let you join in!

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