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Somewhere along the way, I feel like parenting has taken a turn in which parents feel that they need to constantly entertain their kids. There can be this overwhelming pressure that we need to always be providing or creating something new for our children to do. Whether it’s elaborate play dates, creating massive 10 step projects or simply always finding the newest and greatest technology to keep their minds occupied, the pressure is there to keep them busy.
Personally, I fall more along the lines of letting kids find ways to entertain and have fun through imaginative play and a bit of a less-is-more attitude for play. Don’t get me wrong, technology has it’s place and can be a great learning tool when utilized properly, but imaginative and open-ended play can be an absolutely magical thing when it comes to children’s emotional and intellectual development.
Why Is Imaginative Play So Important?
Imaginative play has so many wonderful benefits! Imaginative play opens up the door for creativity. One of my favorite things to do is sit back and watch imaginary scenarios unfold while my children are playing. They can play for hours on end making elaborate situations (house, king/queen, restaurant, space exploring, doctor, travel) with just a few of their favorites toys. This imaginative play allows them to practice their problem solving skills, conflict resolution and social skills.
How To Inspire & Encourage Pretend Play
Make Time For It
We’re busy. We have sports, lessons, appointments and more that take up our days, that our children may not have the opportunity to have time for imaginative play. Find ways to create more downtime to allow children to have ample opportunity for creative pretend play.
Create An Optimal Play Space
Create a welcoming play space that fosters creative play. Think “less is more” when it comes to toys:
- Dolls (my children love their Madame Alexander dolls)
- Stuffed animals
- Cooking toys
- Dress up clothes
- Discarded home items (old phones, remotes, computers)
Open-ended toys like those listed above, allow children to flex their imagination muscles time and time again. Dolls are our favorite toys for pretend play, especially lately. Her Babble Baby™ Madame Alexander doll is perfect for inspiring imaginative play, while fostering empathy, compassion, and kindness.
I love watching her play mom or sister as she lovingly carries and kisses her doll. The soft and cuddly Babble Baby™ doll has over 25 sounds activated by a gentle push of baby’s chest to inspire imaginative, nurturing play. It’s even sweeter as I remember having my own Madame Alexander doll as a child (they’ve been creating dolls for almost 100 years). Her doll play has been integral in teaching her the importance of care and compassion for others. She’s been carrying her doll around for days, feeding her, tucking her in and even taking her along for a bike ride or two.
Think Outside The Box
While it can drive me a little crazy to see toys scattered and mixed up, I try to embrace the chaos and let them create new worlds and spaces with all different toys. Allowing them to envision using something different than it’s original intention can be a great way to build critical thinking and problem solving.
Let Them Lead
I’m often asked to play along during pretend play time and I try to let them lead our play rather than prompting our play to go in a certain direction. I may ask questions or suggest prompts, but ultimately letting them take charge and lead our play leads to more creative and imaginative play.
When children play together, it can create great opportunities to learn about cooperating and build social skills. I try to not intervene in spats (i.e. both children want the same toy or they want to play differently), but let them work it through themselves. If I do have to become involved, encouraging them to think of how others feel and finding ways to find a middle ground in which everyone can enjoy themselves can lead to honing in on important social skills.
Get Outside More
Nature and being outside is a wonderful place to allow imagination to soar! Children’s faces light up when “inside toys” are brought outside and they can create new scenes and stories with them.
What are some of your child(s) favorite toys?