I really enjoy sitting back and watching our young man using his imagination. He is the type of child that will be sitting watching a movie then all of a sudden he starts to act it out. His imaginative play can be quite simple and sometimes he develops these grand stories that go along with his play.
What are the benefits of imaginative play?
1. You get a real-life view of how your child is feeling or coping with a situation
If you sit back and watch or engage in your child’s imaginative play (letting your child take the lead) you will learn a great deal about how they are feeling. Play therapy is a tool that many therapists use with young children.
For example, our 5.5-year-old has been engaging in a great deal of play related to not being allergic to things. He has some anaphylactic allergies and some sensitivities. His play has indicated to me that he just wants to be able to eat what he wants. This play has allowed us to have many conversations about how “allergies suck but we can handle it”. This play gives him a chance to work out his frustrations with the allergies.
2. You get to observe your child questioning his environment
Children are constantly watching and seeing how others react and interact in their world. Their minds are filled with wonder. Wondering why things are one way for one person but different for another person.
For example, our son pretends that he has another mother. He does not act out that he has another father. Should I be offended by this? No! This is his way of trying to figure out why his older brothers have 2 homes with 2 mother figures. We have had wonderful conversations about how lots of children have 2 homes. It can also lead to conversations about the different family dynamics that exist.
3. You can role model how to act in various situations
Children are constantly looking to you for guidance in how to act or react in a situation. When children do not know what to expect in a certain situation you can teach them how to act or react by using imaginative play. This is referred to as role-playing.
Children learn a great deal through role playing. If your child is attending a doctors appointment you can role play with her what will happen and things that she may have to do like having her blood pressure taken. We recently had some role playing around getting a needle. Our son used to be great at getting bloodwork done. Well, needless to say, this is not the case anymore. I know he will have to get blood work in the next few months so we are preparing him through role-playing.
4. You get a clear understanding of how your child views your behavior
Remember your child is often watching how you are behaving. If your child begins to act out in a certain way stop and check to see if your behavior is being mimicked. I have seen this a great deal as a parent and as a worker in the child development field. I have worked with a number of parents that were really frustrated with their child’s behavior. It became very clear that the child was acting just like his parent. Our little people can be a mirror of our behavior.
For example, I have the luxury of having people that come in to clean our house every couple of weeks. For awhile, I was noticing all the things that were being missed. I would make a statement that went something like this “man the cleaners…”. Fast forward a few weeks and when we walked in the door to a beautifully clean house my young man, then 4 years of age, would say “man the cleaners..” before I got a chance to even see what was happening. This made me stop and remember that having a cleaner is a privilege that I should be embracing and not be criticizing.
Hang on for the amazing ride!
When given the chance to use imaginative play, the sky can be the limit to what you learn and how creative your child will be. Typically children begin to use imaginative play around the age of 18 months. You can sometimes see this at an earlier age. Usually, you will notice your little one pretending to be on the phone or using another object similar to the ones you use. When you start to see these behaviors, hang on and enjoy watching your little one be creative and explore the world with a different lense!
Feel free to join me in the forums to discuss your child’s imaginative play. I would love to hear stories that your child acts out.
Toddler Forum Preschool/School-Aged Forum