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Why Imaginative Play Is Important For Kids

Why Imaginative Play Is Important For Kids

Imaginative Play - What is it?

Imaginative play, or pretend play happens when kids role play different scenarios.  They can use props, toys, exiting set ups or completely make-believe set ups.  My littlest loves to line up her toys and play school with them.  Or both girls will set up a restaurant entrance in our corridor. Imaginative Play is important for kids because it is their way of working through their life experiences as well as imagined scenarios. They are like sponges, constantly taking in conversations, things they see and hear around them.  Imaginative play helps them process, make sense of and practise everything they are learning. It is an important part of their development socially and emotionally.

Imaginative, open-ended play will develop skills that your kids will use as they grow and forever in their life. Skills that help them bond with others; to genuinely respect those around them; to behave and communicate well.  They will build skills that will help them manage the difficulties and stressors that will inevitably find them in life; and build resiliency.

Imaginative Play - Imaginative play benefits for kids

What may look like play to us is actually kids processing different scenarios that they have either experienced or are curious about.  It may help them work through issues they may be having.  Some of the benefits of imaginative play include: 

  • Improving their decision making abilities like setting up games and the rules of games and also then agreeing (or disagreeing) about changing of scenarios and rules
  • Building social and emotional skills by looking after their ‘kids’ (toys) and sharing/playing with other kids; plus by pretending to be different characters they are growing their empathy muscle by looking at things from different perspectives
  • Improving language skills by mimicking the adults and shows they watch
  • Increased creativity; for example, by developing whole stories and plots around different events eg tea parties
  • Better problem-solving abilities especially when one doll (or child) wants to do one thing and the other doesn’t; or when they have to improvise with materials they have on hand to build the castle they want.
  • Physical development like gross motor through more active play like saving the world from aliens

In addition to all of that, it is a great way to get them to be active and engaged rather than passively watching screens.  And because they are in charge of their experience, imaginative play can be very relaxing for them.  From a teaching perspective – role playing difficult scenarios together with your kids can guide them though various emotions and problems without the stress, anger or fear.

Imaginative Play - Examples of pretend play

There are so many, but ones you may be familiar with are:

  • Tea parties and picnics
  • Restaurants
  • Cooking
  • Shops
  • Saving the world
  • Being a superhero
  • Schools
  • Babies
  • slaying dragons
  • families – these are the best for hearing what you say to them!
  • Explorers finding new worlds
  • Dinosaur wranglers
  • Different careers – building, fashion designers, fire fighters, wizards, rock stars, bus driver, pilot, dancer, vet, zoo keeper, doctor
  • Movie characters and plots 

Imaginative Play - How can parents encourage it?

Encouraging imaginative play doesn’t have to be taxing or expensive for parents. It’s really about being aware of what your little ones needs and at times guiding them or providing some opportunities for pretend play. Key things to consider:

  • Give attention when required: pretend playing with them is a great way to bond.  Watching an episode of Bluey will show any adult how much fun can be had by all involved! It doesn’t need to be all the time, but when they are keen and you have the time, it’s definitely worth it!
  • Give them space: sometimes they need to be able to get into a scenario without any disruptions. Open ended, no guidance – it’s all great! Provide some space in your home or garden for play.  
  • Provide toys and props: encourage pretend play by providing toys and dress ups or other props that are in line with their interests as well as adding new things as they grow.
  • Invite other kids for playdates: variety is the spice of life; they will learn from each other and do different things that vary from the norm.
  • Provide guidance for tricky situations: if difficult situations arise, guide them and ask them questions to help them work through any issues
  • Super charge their imaginations: Give them experiences that will drive their imaginations and aspirations.  Reading with them, watching interesting things and providing life experiences will all be extremely important in their development.
  • Give them the chance to play: kids are really busy these days (as are the parents) so carving out opportunities to play are a conscious decision in larger and busier households. Make time for it.


Imaginative Play - The best pretend play toys for your playroom

Make Me Iconic - Wooden Baby Doll Accessories Set

Enhance their doll play time with this beautiful 11 piece wooden iconic doll accessories kit. It has everything a (pretend) bub could need and for your little one to immerse themselves in imaginative family and baby  play. They can feed, entertain and soothe baby, brush their hair and get them ready for the adventures they’ve planned for the day. 

Bloomingville Mini - Tea Set

Anyone for tea? This gorgeous little 8 piece tea set is just made for little hands. Lovely and bright with everything a tea party with teddy would need. Great for kids 2+.  Bloomingville Mini products are well made, beautifully designed, and are inspired by the everyday needs of little humans and the beautiful world in which we live.   

Make Me Iconic Wooden Tea Set Extension Kit

The Make Me Iconic Tea Set and Extension Tea Set are two of the most popular products in the store. If you already have a wooden tea set, the extension set is for you.  This kit has it all - tea, honey, mint wedges, milk carton.  Pop the kettle on love!  Matcha Tea anyone? 

Olli Ella Dinkum Doll - Pumpkin

The Dinkum Dolls are made from the softest, snuggliest cotton outer, making them perfect for not only playing with, but cuddling and going to sleep alongside. They feature the sweetest embroidered details, from their eyes and mouth, to the little rainbow over their heart.  Full of love and wonder, children can snuggle them, dress them, and style their hair! Dinkum Dolls are posable, with arms, legs and a head that moves - they can also sit and even stand when wearing their shoes! There are also accessories which you should check out which make play so much more fun!  See the full Dinkum Doll collection here.

Numero 74 - Lucy Butterfly Wings

This whimsical and beautiful new Numero 74 costume will make your little one soar.  Handmade full-span butterfly wings and antenna headband.  This is so magical, it will take them to a new world every time they race outside!

Bloomingville Mini 11 Piece Wooden Grocery Set

The kitchen can only be complete when you've been shopping for all your staples. Whether filling a kitchen or running or shop or market stall, your little ones will be entertained for hours with this cute grocery play set by Bloomingville Mini. This colourful eleven-piece grocery set is made of lotus wood, and decorated with pastel detail of food and drinks. 

Hape Toys Pretend Play Doctor Set

Perfect for hospital or vet pretend fun. Seven piece doctor’s kit packed and ready to make house calls. This is an absolute must have for kids who love to play with dolls or those who love animals.  My kids are always in vet mode, or doctor mode - there are always new patients to see! And the bag makes it really easy to keep everything together.

Hape Race Track Station 31 Pieces

Daniel Ricardo eat your heart out.  If your little one loves cars this is a great race track. Transport your cars to the track – and get racing! The full set includes race cars, train, figurines, race tracks, maintenance tools, flags, a stairway and rail tracks. It's awesome fun for your little speedster!

Hape Kids Cash Register

I turned up to childcare one day to find my youngest set up behind a counter, selling toys to the other kids. Apparently she had been doing it for ages! She loves this cash register. It has money, the buttons are pressable, it has a scanner thingy. My girls play restaurants with it and shops.  It is one of the most used toys in the house. I'm certain that this wooden cash register will be loved by your kids too.  It encourages imaginative play, an understanding of money and the concept of buying and selling and enhancing mathematical concepts.


Imaginative Play - Related Content

Pretend Play

Dolls and Soft Toys

Play Guide for Babies 0-12 Months

Play Guide for Toddlers 1-3 Years Old

Play Guide for Kids Aged 3-6 Years Old

Play To Learn

Baby & Toddler Toys

All Kids Toys