Boy laying down with lego's

Encouraging Imaginative Play

Published on: Tue 10, August, 2021
Girl playing with paint.

Imaginative or pretend play is an excellent way for kids to develop problem-solving skills, learn empathy, practice a new language and even work through difficult emotions. So, how do we help them enjoy this type of play?

Get Involved

Kids aren’t born knowing how to play. Getting down on their level and taking turns to ‘feed’ a doll or talk on a toy phone will not only give them a demonstration of how to play, but will foster the bond between you and them.

Feed Their Imaginations

So many kids’ toys have an obvious function. Providing children with more ambiguous objects will open their minds to the myriad possibilities in the world of imagination. A shoebox can become a garage or a hospital; a plastic tub from the kitchen can turn into a hat or a swimming pool for toys. Give them some props to use and see what they come up with.

Children playing with toys.

Create a Space

This can be as simple as throwing a sheet over two chairs to create a den (Is it a cave to hide from marauding dinosaurs in? The inside of a spaceship taking you to Mars?), or you could take it further with a prop box or a dress-up corner permanently available.

Work with the Familiar…

Act out everyday scenarios such as visiting the hairdresser or shopping for food, taking turns to play each role. This can also be a brilliant way to discover and address a child’s fears about occasions such as going to the doctor or dentist.

…But Provide New Opportunities for Imagination

When you do something unusual – travelling by plane, a day out at the fair – use this as an opportunity to add new options to their play. And encourage them to mix it up! What would a lion dentist sound like? How would a wizard build a treehouse? The sky’s the limit!

We know it can be difficult to come up with new creative activity ideas for children. If you’re finding yourself stuck reusing the same activities each week, our International Nanny Institute has several certified courses where you can learn new ways to improve your approach to childcare and advance your career as a nanny.