Imaginative play for children

11 October, 2023

When children play dress-ups, shops, or tea parties, they’re actually trying out what it is to be a grown-up. It’s super-cute, and also a rich learning experience.


What is imaginative play?

Imaginative play is simply playing “make-believe” or pretend. It’s using your imagination to role-play different situations. It may look just like playing but pretend play provides an abundance of learning opportunities for children.


What are the benefits of imaginative play?

Children learn through many different types of play in early childhood. Imaginative play has a range of benefits. It gives children the opportunity to make sense of the world by experimenting with different scenarios. It helps their cognitive development and creativity as they use their imaginations to solve problems and decide how to act in different situations.

Pretend play helps children to develop social and emotional skills. When children play imagination games with other children, or with adults, they learn to listen to their peers, communicate, negotiate and take turns. Playing a role can also help children develop empathy as they try to imagine how that person would feel, talk and act.

Listening in on children’s pretend play can be pretty cute, as children will often mimic their parents, older siblings or other people they have observed. Children can also reveal new language or behaviour. Participating in imaginative play can be a wonderful opportunity for parents to guide children in their thinking or encourage positive behaviour.

Imaginative play examples

So when does imaginative play start? You can start encouraging imaginative play for toddlers as soon as they seem ready. There are many easy ways to introduce a child to imaginative play at home, including:

  • Introducing stuffed animals or dolls to playtime. Children can pretend to care for them, dress and feed them and take them outside to play.
  • Involving children in daily chores such as play cooking alongside an adult preparing dinner or pegging out doll clothes on a portable clothesline.
  • Providing props and dress-ups for pretend play. Children love to dress up. They can act out characters they know from books or television or well-known jobs, such as teachers, firefighters or shopkeepers. Ask your extended family and friends if they have anything suitable to create a dress-ups box. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many people are keen to pass things along once their own children have outgrown them.
  • Introduce new toys at bath time. Children can pretend to be fishermen catching fish to feed their families or to sell at a market. They can drive the boat around obstacles and through all types of weather.
  • Read a story together and encourage your child to put on a play and act it out. They could do this with family members or friends or use stuffed toys or puppets.


Find support at Edge Early Learning

Imaginative play is so important that we provide children with opportunities to engage in it every day at Edge Early Learning. If you’d like more tips to encourage pretend play at home, speak to your child’s educator and we can let you know what your child leans towards playing while at Edge. We’re always happy to support more learning through play!

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