How to Encourage Imaginative Play in Toddlers
Imaginative play has so many advantages for children, who tend to spend far too much time passively sitting in front of screens today. We recommend introducing pretend play into your child’s routine so that they enter the land of make-believe and start thinking outside of the box early on in their life. Today we’re going to share some of our top tips for introducing imaginative play and how you can encourage this play style as a parent.
Let Your Child Lead the Play Session
One of the key components of imaginative play is letting your child take the lead. There’s no point forcing your child into a series of activities, as this isn’t the point of pretend play. If you do find your child is struggling to relax and enjoy playing, you could introduce a scenario that may guide them to start making up new ideas and games by themselves. If you have multiple children or a group of friends, try to leave them to their own devices as best you can. When you see they are enjoying themselves, start asking questions about what they are doing and where their game is based. You’ll find that once they relax into pretend play, they will be excited to share the unique worlds they’ve created with you.
Set a Challenge for Your Children
Some children need more guidance than others when it comes to imaginative play. We recommend setting a challenge or problem for children who need a little more stimulation so that they keep coming up with new ideas and ways of thinking. You could tell your children that they need to get from one side of the room to the other and then introduce a series of rules to make this more exciting. From there, it’s time for them to take the lead, unleashing their creativity when it comes to imaginative play.
Offer Some Basic Supplies
One of the best things about pretend play is that it can take place at anytime and anywhere. You only need some space for your children to play, and they’ll be able to start enjoying various games and activities. Some kids enjoy themselves more with a few basic supplies though. We recommend adding art supplies and cardboard boxes into the mix, which can make their games much more fun. They’ll be able to unleash their creativity with these supplies, which will form the basis of their pretend play for the day. Don’t overcomplicate things or add too many toys to their games. This will often have the opposite effect and stop them from coming up with games for themselves.
Don’t Overstimulate Your Children
Imaginative play doesn’t require you to offer your children endless toys and games to work with. Instead, it’s all about using their imagination and what they have in front of them in the room. Less is more when it comes to pretend play, so don’t overstimulate your child with too many toys and supplies. Try to strip back what’s in the room that they are playing in so they aren’t distracted instead of focusing on what they are doing. Children don’t need as much stimulation as you might think, and you’ll find that most toddlers and kids are very happy to entertain themselves when left to their own devices.
Let Your Kids Be Bored
In the past, kids were often left to find things to do when they were bored. Today, parents often rely on books, TV screens, and phones, which offer endless hours of entertainment for kids and adults. However, if you want your children to pretend play more often, you need to teach them how to be bored. You don’t need to schedule every moment of every day for them, as this will only make them feel exhausted. Allow them to just be from time to time so that they can find ways to fill their time with imaginative play.
See What Your Child is Interested In
Every child is going to be interested in something different, and this can often form the basis of their pretend play. Don’t force your child to have fun based on what you or other children enjoy, and instead, follow what they gravitate towards. For some children, this might be dancing or art, whereas others may enjoy roleplay and pretending to be an adult for the day. You’ll soon see patterns in your child’s pretend play, which they’ll come back to over and over again when you leave them to play by themselves. Parents can then think about the types of activities their children might enjoy as they grow up and find appropriate classes or sessions to take them to.
Join in With Your Child
As adults, it can be hard for us to let loose and join in with pretend play. Even if you feel a bit silly, your child will love you joining in with their imaginative play. We recommend trying to put your embarrassment aside and joining in with whatever game they are playing. Your child will truly value your time together, and it’s something they’ll remember as they grow up into their teenage and adult years. There are also many benefits of pretend play for adults, who will find they feel more relaxed and enjoy improved mental health by escaping the everyday realities of being an adult.
By encouraging imaginative play from a young age, your child will grow up with an improved imagination and the ability to keep themselves busy during any situation. You’ll find that they learn to never be bored, as there will always be something to keep them entertained in the future. As a parent, we encourage you to try and join in with their pretend play, which will create memories that you’ll treasure for years to come. By limiting the resources you offer your child, you’ll help them to discover new worlds and have hours of fun using their imagination, increasing their creativity for their later years.