Parents and educators do not need to teach imaginative play. Instead, we have the simple job of facilitating imaginative play.
Through imaginative play, the individual child is creating something unique to their personality and life experience. A group of children participating in imaginative play collaborate to create something together. The best way to validate and encourage these creative accomplishments is to passively observe. If two or more children engage in imaginative play and a conflict occurs, there is an opportunity to facilitate problem solving and conflict resolution.
Well-meaning educators sometimes make the mistake of participating in the creation. This action is not harmful, though it can inhibit the child’s natural creative process. Children tend to follow the adult lead instead of following their own ideas. The adult can instigate the creative process with kids, to help them get started, by setting up an open-ended environment that is conducive to creativity. Even better, the adult can follow the lead of the child’s ideas by providing materials and a safe place for their play. A group situation for kids, like Oasis Day Camp, is structured to accommodate children. However, with minimal effort parents can facilitate creative play in the home.
Space, Inspiration and Open-Ended Materials at Home:
Unfortunately, progress in technology and passive entertainment is diverting children from natural opportunities to engage in imaginative play. The adult can work to counterbalance this, by facilitating imaginative play. You can create an inviting environment, with open-ended materials, separated from passive entertainment like the computer, tv and video games.
Examples of Primers for Imaginative Play:
Dress Up: invest in a variety of dress up clothes from a thrift shop. Maybe, you can help them set up a theater and they can put on a show.
Storytelling: You can engage children in storytelling by starting a story and letting them construct the rest of it. This is also a nice family bonding experience. If possible, record the children using speech to text software. You can even bring out art materials for children to illustrate their story creations.
Construction: A simple set of blocks can transform into just about anything. The floor of the living room can turn into a construction site, a hospital or a movie theater. As a parent, all you have to do is make the blocks available and the children will take it from there!
Everyday Objects: Children will often take objects, from around the house, and turn them into props for imaginative play. A simple blue carpet can turn into an ocean or a river with alligators. A comforter or blanket transforms into a fort or a bird’s nest. If the use of a particular object is unsafe or impractical, see if you can find an alternate object or toy.
Children like to think and create. Sometimes, they need a nudge of encouragement and the power of suggestion. Once this occurs step back and enjoy!
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