It is heartening to know that the value of imaginative and pretend play is well-established among psychologists, teachers, behavioral scientists, brain experts, and many parents. I’d like to share 16 important reasons for you to carve out time for your children to crank up their imaginations and play!
1. Emotional Development
Through imaginative and pretend play, kids grapple with their feelings, thoughts, confusions, wishes, and fears. By “grappling,” they learn!
2. Social Development
Children learn how to deal with one another through imaginative and pretend play. Role-play involves negotiating, reading social cues, self-restraint, decision-making, sharing, caring, and taking turns. That’s a whole lot of complex social skills!
3. Language Skills
Throughout the process of play, kids need to make their ideas clear, promoting vocabulary growth and communication skills. Children learn not only language, but body language, as well.
By creating their own world, children become the active “creator.” They’re no longer chained to their real size, age, and dependency on adults. This is quite reassuring and relaxing for them.
As kids pretend to be someone else, they get a sense of how it feels to be someone else. This leads to the discovery of “others,” and how these others feel.
6. Experimentation, Innovation & “Mistakes”
What is the safest environment for a child to experiment and brainstorm in, and even make mistakes in? The environment he or she has created! Imaginative play leads to all sorts of unexpected discoveries. Sometimes it can even lead a child to his or her ultimate passion in life.
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7. Motor skills
Kids who actively play improve and refine eye-hand coordination and large motor skills. They also learn physical limits: what their bodies can and cannot do.
8. Positive bonds with family/adults
As adults enter the child’s world of imagination, or simply observe it positively, they show that they are interested in the child’s thoughts and personality. If children invite adults to play with them, the shared experience fosters closeness, confidence, and connection.
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Kids need time to relax, unwind, and blow off steam by playing.
Sometimes kids have trouble focusing on what we feel they should. Observe them focus on what is important to them…you might be surprised!
11. Healthy brain development
Imaginative and pretend play builds brain cells—the stimulation involved with play actually affects brain structure. This will serve your child throughout life.
12. Creative adults were creative kids
Studies show that most creative adults had creative childhoods. These creative adults generally rise to the top of their field, no matter what it is: science, art, literature, teaching, etc.
13. Sort out fantasy and reality
Kids become acutely aware of when they are pretending or not. They use different voices, and display different mannerisms. This is healthy! Fantasy and reality become more distinct, rather than blurred, through play.
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14. Academic readiness
Studies have shown that play helps young children become ready for school.
15. Life readiness
Imaginative and pretend play develops the very skills that every employer looks for: team work, creative problem solving, emotional intelligence, interpersonal skills, and adaptability.
16. Intellectual aptitude & appetite
Imaginative and pretend play is the foundation of abstract thought. Einstein said it best:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge generally. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”