Imaginative play, let’s pretend or make believe – it goes by lots of names. Imaginative play is essentially role play.
It’s when children take on new characters or act out scenarios often exploring language and actions taken from the world around them that they haven’t experienced for themselves yet.
Outdoor imaginative play has been shown to support child development in many key areas such as language and communication, critical thinking and managing emotions.
It creates a safe environment for young ones to try out ideas and understand how actions and words help them to relate to other people.
What are the benefits of imagination in child development?
Investigating real life situations through play allows children to engage their independent thinking skills as they apply what they have already learnt about society to the role they are playing.
Outdoor role play encourages creativity and strengthens communication and teamwork skills as children collaborate in the game, coming up with their own rules and characters.
Making friendships through these games helps to build confidence and self esteem as children find common ground and shared interests in this sociable activity.
Imaginative play also develops emotional intelligence such as empathy and compassion as children put themselves in the shoes of someone else.
There are physical development benefits too with fine and gross motor skills put to the test in each different scenario.
The benefits of imaginative play include increased resilience, growing initiative and the freedom for children to express their personality.
What does the EYFS say about imaginative play?
Imagination and creativity come under the Expressive Arts and Design area of the EYFS curriculum.
It is included in the early years foundation stage framework as a way of giving children space and time to experience and explore different responses and the way they relate to other people.
Suggested activities include putting on a musical jam session, perhaps with the use of Outdoor Musical Instruments or a Stage area, available from the Hand Made Places music and performance range.
Guidance also suggests activities such as exploring Playground Sculptures or creating outdoor libraries and reading corners, such as those featuring the Storyteller’s Chair, can help to develop children’s imagination.
Outdoor imaginative play is a fun way of teaching children about the wider world.
Encouraging imaginary play
Imaginative play can range from pretending to talk on the phone to coming up with more complex and elaborate scenarios, from afternoon tea parties to firefighters carrying out a daring rescue.
It can include dressing up or using props and can start with just a simple idea or theme, giving children the freedom to act out whatever they want.
Whether in a school or nursery playground, or out in a neighbourhood play space, including imaginative play equipment can spark self-initiated play as well as play-based learning.
The addition of clever safety surfacing or playground markings around outdoor role play equipment such as the Log Train, Train Set and Tractor & Trailer can set youngsters off on a different adventure every day, as well as providing fun seating arrangements.
Additions such as the Townhill Multiplay Unit, Teepee or Adventure Castle are the base for story-inspired games.
The Forest Story House or Play Den can be transformed into shops, cafes, police stations or gingerbread cottages, as well as providing shade and shelter from the elements.
Mini Micro World Tables are ideal for those who prefer less active imaginative play, using toy cars and figures in outdoor role play.
And our tactile range of Animal Totem and Playground Sculptures can be the perfect starting points for international travel all from the safety of the outdoor play area.
Our teams are experienced in designing, manufacturing and installing playground equipment for imaginative play. Contact us to discuss your goals and ideas today.