The land of make-believe
Not only is imaginative play a lot fun, but it is particularly important for your child’s emotional, social and intellectual development. For many people, creative play is the mark of a good childhood, but creativity is also an essential cognitive skill that your child will use throughout her life.
In today’s society, many children aren’t given enough time for free play – that is, unstructured, child-directed play, where children are allowed to ‘play pretend’, make a mess, and explore the world around them, learning as they go.
Toys and television – terrific or terrible?
As terrific as toy kits can be, they leave little room for a child to discover the world. They are designed to stimulate all the senses, yet often these types of toys are holding children back from working out the wonders of the world on their own.
Similarly, there are excellent educational shows for children, and letting your child watch some TV isn’t a bad thing. The problem is when television is not used in moderation, but becomes a ‘babysitter’ for busy parents who may be too tired to play with their toddlers at the end of a long day.
10 ways to fire up your child’s imagination
We are all born with an ability to play. Once you rediscover your inner child, you’ll find that encouraging playfulness will come naturally. In the meantime, here are a few ideas for firing up your child’s imagination:
- Embrace music, and use nursery rhymes as a form of playful communication.
- Look for fairies at the bottom of the garden.
- Turn the bathtub into a pirate ship and search for treasure.
- Play dress-up. Are you astronauts or aliens today? Or princes and princesses?
- Put on a puppet show.
- Plan a picnic or tea party, with pretend food, and your child’s stuffed animals as guests.
- Bring home a big box and help your child turn it into a ‘house’ to play in.
- Tell stories: read different books together or make up your own stories.
- Make magic water by putting food colouring in your child’s paddling pool.
- Allow your child to be arty, even if it’s messy – drawing, painting, sculpting with playdough.
Toddlers live in a world of fantasy, and will often say whatever comes to mind without worrying about whether it’s true or not. Try not to get angry – this type of lying is not intentional but rather an indication of an active imagination, which is a good thing at this age! Gentle correction and a good example is mostly all that’s needed to show your child how to be truthful.