The Importance of Imaginative Play in Schools

Encouraging Imaginative Play in schools is great way for children to develop in several ways. Here we look into what Imaginative Play is, and the benefits it will bring to schools like yours.

With a little imagination, children can turn the simplest space or object into a zone worthy of hours of attention. They can become so thoroughly absorbed in their imaginations that it can take several attempts to snap them out of their pretend world. This type of play – known as imaginative play – is worth encouraging. Here’s why.

Limited only by their imagination

What is Imaginative Play?

Imaginative play is when children are using their imagination to role-play scenarios they have seen, experienced or would like to experience. Sometimes called ‘pretend’ or ‘dramatic’ play, it’s an open-ended, unstructured activity, with no rules, goals, or result. However, children learn a lot from it.

Any time a child is pretending to be someone (or something) else, or playing with an object and pretending it’s something else, they’re engaging in imaginative play. Examples include pretending to cook, clean, save the world, beat bad guys, host dinner parties and much more. There is no limit to what can be considered imaginative play, as long as your child is using their imagination (and sometimes, props) to act out the scenario. Whatever they choose to play and pretend, they’re learning and developing important lifelong skills.

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So why is it so important in Schools?

The importance of pretend play is often underestimated. “Imaginative play has the greatest impact on the development of key skills that are important for children’s success with peers,” explains Dr. Catherine Neilsen-Hewett, a lecturer and researcher in child development. It fosters creativity while developing social, emotional, and language skills. Consequently, through pretend play, your child learns to express themselves and build positive relationships with peers. And of course, it’s also great fun!

  • Social & Emotional Development:

    Imaginative play allows children to practise what it’s like to be someone else, helping them develop empathy and understanding for others. Pretending also helps a child’s self-esteem, giving them the confidence to be anything they want. When children pretend play with others, they work on skills like cooperation, negotiation, collaboration, and sharing of responsibilities. It’s is a great way for children to test their boundaries, learn to control impulses and experiment with social interaction.

  • Creative Development:

    An obvious benefit of imaginative play is an enhanced creative ability. Imaginative play gives children the skills they need later in life for creative problem solving and an appreciation for artistic endeavors. Creativity in children can later aid in the discovery and invention of new concepts as well as being able to understand different types of art and visualise characters and situations from books and movies.

  • Physical Development:

    Many types of creative play are also great opportunities for physical activity. For younger children still working on motor skills, imaginative play helps both gross and fine motor skills develop. As children play, they use gross motor skills, like climbing and jumping. Fine motor skills come into play with activities such as pretend money, play food, dressing dolls with clothes, and playing with small cars or figures. Pretend play also helps young children learn to self-regulate their movements and behaviors.

  • Language & Communication Skills:

    Engaging in imaginative play allows children to act out situations they see every day. They may impersonate parents, other people they see, or characters from movies. And when they do this, children experiment with language and vocabulary, learning how to use words appropriately and communicate with peers. They practice listening skills and learn the meaning behind words, strengthening connections between written and spoken words.

  • Thinking & Problem Solving:

    All sorts of creative problem-solving abilities are applicable during imaginative play. It could be selecting materials to build a fort, or creating something new from common household materials. It also involves problems that may arise during playtime, such as two children wanting the same role or tempers flaring in their pretend scenario. All of these examples and more are ways that a child can develop the cognitive abilities and skills they’ll use throughout life.

Specialists in creating areas for Imaginative Play in Schools

Playcubed are leading school playground design and install company, creating outstanding play spaces across London and the South East for over 40 years. We have created some fantastic areas for imaginative play in schools, and would love to do the same for you! Please get in touch to discuss any ideas you may have.

Speak to the play experts