Childhood is a time for exploration, learning and laughter; playing games is a crucial part of this. Throwing a ball back and forth, building a Lego zoo and playing hide and seek are just some of the physical games that children enjoy and learn from, but make-believe is just as important for a child and is packed full of magic, fantasy and excitement.
Why is imaginary play so important?
Within the stages of childhood, make-believe is a crucial part of a child’s cognitive development. It allows them to take on different roles; consider reactions, emotions and the behaviour of others; it enables them to take risks in a safe imaginary world, expanding their mind with possibilities and on some level, developing empathy. Expression, language development and creativity are also enhanced through imaginary play and children’s perceptions of the world are explored throughout these roles, demonstrating understanding of their environment and their social interactions. Playing individually or with people also builds positive relationships, independence and confidence. Whilst all of these reasons are encouraging enough, a key motive for playing imaginary games with children is that they love them.
Why should adults play too?
Whilst children love to play together and create a new world within their own living room, they also enjoy doing this with adults and find it funny to see their parent or carer take on a whole different role to what they are used to. This relaxed and proactive approach to make-believe will help to boost a child’s confidence, encouraging them to try new things without fear of embarrassment. It will also continue to develop a special bond between the two of you as they trust you to share in their imaginary game.
Christmas is magic!
As we approach December, Father Christmas, Santa, or St. Nicholas will be ready and waiting with Rudolf’s nose gleaming, shiny and bright. Childhood fantasy is magical and encouraging your charge to believe in a story like this is a wonderful experience for everyone. If this is something that your family celebrates, start thinking about the different sorts of stories you can tell your charge. With the Christmas music blaring and fairy lights twinkling, it is definitely time to start talking about the North Pole, the amazing elves and how on earth Santa and his reindeer manage to deliver all of the presents to every child on Christmas Eve. Perhaps have some angel dust at the ready.
Embrace the creativity
These games will not last forever so stomp around the garden, pretending to be the Gruffalo; become Peter Pan and Tinker Bell in your quest against Captain Hook; perform live on stage at a concert to all teddy bears and pretend to be on a sinking boat in shark infested waters – they will love it and will learn a lot. Whether your charge prefers to play shop, café, mummies and daddies or simply brings their teddy bears to life – enjoy it, encourage it and join in.