Kids today lead very busy lives. Between school, play dates, family visits, activities, and parent work schedules, it can be very difficult to find time to slow down and just let kids be kids. Children are naturally very imaginative, and it is important that we as parents do not pass up any opportunities to encourage our kids to engage in pretend play.
Some parents can feel pressure to come up with or construct scenarios which promote this kind of play, but the reality is something as simple as a kids teepee tent could allow ample opportunity for learning and play. Here are five reasons that imaginative play is so important to children and their social, emotional, and cognitive development.
It Lets Them Unplug
Kids are surrounded by technology, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Kindergartners may use laptops and iPads in public school, and it is good for kids to show up with a base knowledge for how these devices work. Still, it can be very tempting (and convenient) to allow electronics to become the bulk of children’s entertainment and play.
Whenever possible, we should take a step back and give our kids the chance to unplug a little bit. Whether they are using blocks, stuffed animals, or even finger paint, the bottom line is that they are creating something through imaginative play. That’s an important experience for every child to have.
They Can Explore Scary or Stressful Situations Safely
The world is coming at our kids so fast, and they are required to take in and process so much in the course of a single day. Somewhere along the way, kids are bound to run into situations that scare them or stress them out. Imaginative play allows kids the opportunity to approach these situations safely.
For example, a child who was nervous about beginning first grade may benefit from playing “school” with friends, or with her stuffed animals. A child who was recently scared by a thunder storm, might use a flashlight and drum to simulate the experience in a controlled way.
This is an important practice, as it allows kids to approach their fears in an environment where they still have complete control.
They Develop a Sense of Wonder and Adventure
Some kids may whine at first when you ask them to “go play pretend,” but give them enough time and you may be amazed to hear the scenarios they come up with. It is important for parents to always foster the sense of wonder and adventure kids can tap into so readily.
Social Skills Development
When two or three kids get together, the entire dynamic of imaginative play changes. Three little ones in a children’s teepee might turn that play tent into anything from a restaurant, to a dentist’s office, to a jet. The interesting thing about imaginative play with friends is that it requires a certain amount of cooperation, communication, and mutual understanding among all the kids involved.
This is not to say that it will always go smoothly, but allowing kids to run into small disagreements, and then encouraging them to work it out among themselves is a huge life skill.
Synthesizing Real World Knowledge
Kids pick up all sorts of information when they are going about their daily lives, but rarely do they have a chance to use or test out their new knowledge until they get a minute to slow down. Kids who recently learned about a new rule might apply that to their pretend play. A child who just learned some amazing facts about dinosaurs might set up a prehistoric world for himself where he can let those facts play out in front of him.
While it is true that kids often require structured activities, it is also true that they need a bit of time to think on their own, and nothing accomplishes that better than imaginative play.