Why Educators Encourage Imaginitive Play

Experienced educators know how important imaginative play is for developing children. Imaginative play stems from the imitation play that children engage in at earlier stages. Imitation play is the developmental stage where young children, typically age 1-3, are observing and processing the world around them. At the imitation stage, a child’s play reflects the actions of the adults in their lives. As children develop, they gradually integrate imaginary concepts into their imitation play scenarios. Eventually, as the child develops, imaginative play becomes the more dominant activity.

Once children master imitation play, we start to see imaginative play grow and evolve. Through the imitation play stage, we see how children develop observation skills, remember what they observe, and incorporate it into their play. Imaginary play demonstrates the child’s ability to create original material. This is an exciting development, since imaginative play comes from the child’s unique developing personality and ability to conceptualize what they observe and experience.

Through imaginative play, we see children interpreting the world around them and creating their place in it, as they manipulate their environment. At this stage, children are free to think independently and problem solve. A simple setting, with open-ended materials, allows children to see objects and create their own reality. For example, A box of blocks can turn into a box of DVDs or smartphones. The bottom portion of bunk beds can turn into a bat cave. A large piece of fabric transforms into a cape, a theater curtain, the night sky, a fort, or just about anything depending on the child's unique ability to conceptualize ordinary objects.

Imaginative play, in a group setting, often involves other children so they are learning to collaborate and problem solve. The most effective way for educators to facilitate imaginative play is to step back and simply allow it.

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