Imaginative Play Vital for Child Development

Anybody who has done any reading on play and toys will know that self directed imaginative play is the best kind of play there is.

You might like to read related posts on Interest Driven Learning and Play Builds Skills.

I present further evidence (as if we needed it) from Psychology Today The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development.

Authors Scott Barry Kaufman, Dr Jerome L Singer & Dr Dorothy G Singer assert:

“Over the last seventy-five years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child.”

It is pointed out that longitudinal studies indicate that early imaginative play is associated with increased creative performance years later!  Creative play builds the genius muscle…quick bring out the open ended self guided play toys.  The ones that don’t have rules to follow and instructions to master.

A short summary of the years of research on the benefits of engagement in pretend games:

  1. Increases in language uses
  2. “Theory of mind” meaning awareness of different perspectives and thoughts
  3. Cognitive integration of seemingly separate content
  4. Divergent thinking (ability to come up with many different ideas)
  5. Expression of both positive and negative feelings
  6. Ability to integrate emotion
  7. Reduced aggression
  8. Delay of gratification
  9. Civility
  10. Empathy
  11. Social skills such as communication and problem solving
  12. Enhanced curiosity
  13. Increased academic readiness
  14. Enhancement of capacity for cognitive flexibility….and ultimately….
  15. CREATIVITY!

* I refer you to the article here if you are interested in the sources of the research findings and more in depth explanations.

How do parents and teachers create environments that promote early and frequent imaginative play?

  1. Parents who talk to their children regularly explaining features about nature and social issues
  2. Reading or telling stories
  3. An atmosphere in which pretend games are encouraged through guided play

Now that doesn’t seem to hard does it?  We can all talk and read even if we can’t quite grasp guided imaginative play scenarios.  The benefits are enormous and it seems that the simple act of de-structuring (yes not a word but I like it!) play is what gives the best benefits.

And you know what?  Adults who are looking to engage in some creative thinking would do well to read a few kids books from time to time.  They can be very enlightening, and if nothing else make you smile and think new thinks.  And really that’s what the new world needs….people who can think new thinks.

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