The Importance of Imaginative Play in Child’s Development

“Logic can get you from A to Z; imagination can get you everywhere.” - Albert Einstein A toddler is like a little scientist – observing, making connections, testing ideas and solving problems. A child always learns through play, he /she uses their imagination and creativity to experiment and better understand himself and the world he/she lives in. Imaginative play is one of the favorite parts of toddlerhood. Pretend / Imaginative play helps toddlers grasp an understanding of the world. They use imagination and creativity to experiment and better understand in the world they live in. At this age, the best learning happens through play as all other functions are still developing such as speech, vocabulary and logic. It has been found that when young children use their imagination in play, they are more creative, perform better at school and develop a strong problem-solving approach to learning. Experts also say that the pretending process builds skills in many essential developmental areas. When children engage in pretend play, they are actively experimenting with the social roles of life. Imaginative play has the greatest impact on the development of key skills that are important for a child’s interaction with peers. When playing creatively with their friends, the child learns to co-operate and compromise. It encourages children to participate in social activities and to understand social relationships. The value of playing with dolls and toy action figures encourages children to learn how to interact socially and develop social cues by experimenting with eye contact, using different tones and emotions. Children also learn to have conversations, which they enact by talking to their dolls and action figures and imagining responses. Playing with action figures also helps build self-esteem, as any child can be a hero – just by pretending. Pretend/ Imaginative play is simply ‘make-believe’ or role play for preschoolers, the child reinvents the wheel and behaves like his favorite fantasy character. The character could be from a cartoon, film, or even be a person. For example, the child may talk to an imaginary friend and think he’s being comforted by him whenever he feels down. This lets him learn brick ways, builds resilience and confidence to tackle any of life’s future challenges. Typically, children between the ages of 12 to 24 months start enacting fantasy role-plays and by the time they turn three years old, their imaginary details and action sequences in everyday scenarios get even more elaborate. When a toddler invents a scenario, plot, and characters, they develop social and verbal skills. By replaying scenarios that involve feeling sad, happy or frightened, the toddler will work out emotional issues. Imagining that they are a superhero or a wizard makes them feel powerful. It teaches them that they are in charge and that they can be anyone they want to be. A parent should not make a conversation when a child is pretending to a play; instead, build comments, such as, "Wow, you look like you're in a universe!" This allows his imagination to take the direction they want, this also builds scope for a larger canvas of communication and goal setting. The toddler also practices self-discipline as this process helps make up the rules and pacts with a friend. They also learn about cause and effect as they also begin to develop the skills to understand how behavior expectations when putting into a particular situation. Perhaps most important of all, by creating imaginary situations and following them through, a child learns to solve problems. Imaginative play at a young age can help the child to grow up to become a better problem-solver. So rest assured that all those hours spent on the carpet pretending to be animals is far from wasted time.  Imaginative/pretend play builds confidence; develops communication skills, physical development and problem-solving attitudes. Along with being a fun activity, it also allows children to get into character and act out real-life roles. It is purely child-led and encourages children to take risks and be creative with the role they are playing. It’s a fun way for little ones to learn about different professions with day-to-day situations.   The author, Mrs. Shashikala C. Rananavare is the Principal of Vidyasagar Preschool- JP Nagar. She carries a wealth of experience through her involvement as the first batch of teachers for Vidyashilp Academy and later by a managerial role at GEMS Dubai.