Let your child’s imagination run loose. Imaginary play is a brilliant way to foster children’s creativity.
Role play isn’t just “kids being kids.” It allows kids to develop their minds and personalities by acting out themes. What’s more, it empowers them and helps build self-confidence as they develop fine and gross motor skills, practice social behaviors, and improve communication and language skills. All of these opportunities sow the seeds of ideas that later aid creative writing and thinking.
How exactly do imaginations develop? It starts at birth, with you reading aloud and singing lullabies to them. As they hear and start to comprehend language, the stories they hear – the “mental” imagery they remember – will transform into play scenarios that empower them to be the hero or heroine, or to act out their fears and solve problems.
Between 12 and 24 months, children learn that objects can represent other things – a shoe box can be a parking garage, a straw can be a rocketship, a block can be a sandwich. This is the beginning of imaginary play, which is crucial for mental and emotional development. This type of imaginary play also helps introduce the idea of symbols, which will later aid in math and reading and also lead to creativity.
With open-ended toys to inspire them (even everyday household objects will do), children will enhance their ability to “see” a story in their minds as they develop imaginary and dramatic pretend play scenarios. This skill will also help them increase their enjoyment of reading and books.
Playhouses, trucks, play food, tool benches, dolls, trains, animals and people figures let children play out real life skills and scenarios – the things they see everyday. Pretend play makes scenarios feel more familiar, and it lets them practice the behavior they’ve observed and that you’ve modeled for them. When children encounter adult problems or situations with people in the future, they will know how to deal with them openly and successfully.
Play with puppets, theaters, dolls and costumes will also help develop communication skills. According to Dr. Steveanne Auerbach, also known as Dr. Toy, “Creativity and communication are important aspects of a child’s development. [...] Puppets and dolls aid in communication, and provide dialog, warmth and comfort. Every child uses imagination playing with puppets, dolls, costumes and playhouses.”