There are no losers in imaginative play. When children pretend to be shop-keepers, doctors, and fairy tale royalty, they flex their creative muscles – but that’s not all.
Irrespective of a child’s ability, imaginative play is an opportunity to develop their knowledge of social cues and emotional intelligence. It’s all about allowing children to practise what they’ve learnt about the world so far. In imaginative play you will see the manifestation of a child’s knowledge of real-world situations and boundaries. Best of all, this takes place in a low-stake environment where education is simply a by-product of having fun.
At Hand Made Places we produce Imaginative Play equipment as well as multi-use units which make great additions to any playground in which you want to encourage creativity. Read on to find out why products which encourage imaginative play are so beneficial to child development.
In imaginative play children often practise activities which they have seen at home or on TV. For example, a child might pretend to be in a kitchen, washing up and re-enacting steps from the
cooking process. When they do this they are stretching their memories to include what will become basic life skills.
Even though they’re playing and missing steps out, this builds towards a well-rounded child with practical knowledge of the world. This all happens as they play, without having to push them into real-life situations too quickly.
With our Mud Kitchen we hope to encourage children to engage with the age-old tradition of getting their hands dirty…
whilst also trying out the specific vocabulary and actions they pick up along the way!
Mirroring the Community
When children centre their play on Workshops, Playhouses, Cars, and Trains, they are actually practising real-life conversations and working on problem solving skills. Of course they don’t go into imaginative play with this goal but its effects make it an important part of childhood.
When pretending to go to a cafe or shop, children develop independence by testing out phrases without fearing failure or embarrassment.
Creating imaginary conflicts between characters allows them to learn their friends’ reactions to different methods of communication.
When discussing families and lifestyles of different sorts, children develop understanding and, in some cases, a sense of compassion.
These are vital aspects of child development that don’t tend to be covered by normal lessons. In a global society it helps to understand the way their local community works. Therefore, it’s important to give children time to practise and learn on this smaller scale.
Out of this World
Adventure and fantasy games are all about building highly creative stories, developing emotional responses, and learning about worlds and lives that are not our own. At Hand Made Places we have a lot of love for this classic style of imaginative play!
You can build a Pirate themed playground using a one of our Boats, the Island circuit, and an Octopus or a Crocodile play sculpture. Put a Bridge with a Castle and a Horse & Cart and you have an instant fairy tale kingdom.
The act of ‘world-building’ with a group of friends improves communication skills as children learn to negotiate and make collective decisions. Even if a child plays a game like this alone it can do wonders for their logical thought-processes. Try asking a few questions – you’ll soon see quite how detailed the ‘rules’ of their imaginary world are, how much they’ve managed to pick up about genre from books and TV, and the ways they have found to weave in elements of the real world.
Miniatures and Motor Skills
Hand Made Places also produces and installs equipment for play on a much smaller scale. Our wheelchair accessible Micro World Tables, Sand Pits, and Water Trays are all brilliant for working on fine motor skills and share similar benefits with building blocks and figurines.
Each of these three types of product are available in multiple themes which fit in perfectly with the other styles of product discussed here.
Pupils will develop a knowledge of the physical world while engaging in imaginative play with natural resources or at a table. They begin to understand the direct consequences of physical actions such as pushing wheeled objects together, compressing sand, or making ripples in water.
These are all things you probably can’t even remember learning, maybe it feels like innate human knowledge! However, it all needs to be picked up from experience. So why not encourage it in enjoyable, creative play.
- Getting Everyone Moving
Further examples of imaginative play are those which come in the form of physical competition. Obstacle courses and stepping stones
are almost always turned into games like ‘cat and mouse’ and ‘the floor is lava’.
It seems we are built to adapt activities into imaginative play!
A Hand Made Places Trim Trail is an excellent way of encouraging children to combine exercise with creativity. As well as promoting fitness amongst even the most sport-resistant pupils, imaginative play of this kind teaches children to take turns and play as a team.
The Development of Imaginative Play
The inherent creative capacity of a child’s mind is a wonder to behold. However, it’s clear that imaginative play does not just demonstrate what the child already knows. Those who love to ‘make-believe’ have the chance to expand upon and share their experiences.
It is over 40 years since child psychology expert at Central Michigan University, Sophie Lovinger, found that daily imaginative play improved and increased language use in children. When observing today’s young generation, it’s evident that this style of play is still as beneficial as it ever was.
In a digitised world it can be difficult to encourage children to enjoy their time away from screens. However, it’s time to capitalise on the immense levels of information that young people are increasingly able to explore.
All it takes is something to offer a spark of inspiration on the playground.