Between the everyday obligations of school, sports and other extra-curricular activities, many children equate playtime with sitting in front of the television, computer or other electronic device.
This dependence on electronic devices can be linked to a list of issues, including childhood obesity, as well as reduced cognitive and muscle development. Children who instead engage in imaginative or pretend play are offered a stress-free environment where their dreams have no boundary. This type of activity just comes naturally for kids because it’s just plain fun.
Create a pretend play paradise
A make-believe-friendly setting begins with the parents. Here are a few ideas to create an environment that fosters creative, imaginative play for your little ones:
• Focus on fun: A truly free setting for imaginative play is one without structure or rules. Let your child know there are no expectations or wrong outcomes while they are pretending. There may be moments where you have to intervene, but the atmosphere should be relaxed and free from rules.
• Give toys that encourage pretend play: Make sure your kids have toys that allow them to express themselves. The Calico Critters toy line is the ideal choice for parents seeking timeless, classic toys that delight children and promote wholesome values through pretend play. Children will love these adorable, high-quality miniature animal figures, which include families of rabbits, dogs, cats, bears and more. For more information, visit www.calicocritters.com.
• Read to your children: The benefits of children who are regularly read to are immense, from enhanced bonding between parent and child to better test scores. So, begin the reading ritual as early as you can. You will find your child will love and look forward to sharing this healthy activity with you.
• Play along: Young children mimic everything their parents do, so be a model of imaginative play for them. Go ahead and act silly — dress up with them, act out puppet shows or build forts with bed sheets. Calico Critters, with its imaginative collection of families, homes and accessories is perfect for “Mommy & Me” playtime. You may be surprised by how much enjoyment you get out of it.
• Create a fantasy prop box: Fill a box with various trinkets found throughout your home for kids to create their own forts, homes, businesses or simply a rousing game of dress-up. Just make sure to pick items that are safe and you won’t miss if they are lost or damaged from heavy play.
• Plan open-ended activities: Instead of starting an art project with a finished model for them to create, plan free painting or crafting sessions with your kids. This will allow your children to fully express themselves any way they desire. Just make sure you have plenty of fun supplies on hand, such as glitter, paper, glue, markers, boxes, feathers, sequins or any other trinkets you have on hand.
• Use the great outdoors as a playground: Encourage your kids to use the great outdoors as their canvas for unbridled creativity. A simple trip outside opens
• a whole world of play options for a child. Plus, it allows your children to be more active, which is always a bonus.
The many benefits of imaginative play
Research shows parents who encourage this sort of imaginative play offer a healthy, supportive environment for their children. Here are a few of the ways in which the power of imagination benefits your child’s development and overall well-being:
• Emotional and social development: When a child is involved in pretend play, he naturally creates scenarios and acts out different roles. This often involves looking outside of their individual desires and learning the essential skills of empathy and understanding.
• Language aptitude: When alone at play, children will often mimic the vocabulary they’ve picked up from their parents, family members and educators. This association of vocabulary and word meaning is reinforced more when acted out in front of peers during pretend play.
• Enhanced mathematic skills: Parents who use fake food or money to act out a grocery store trip help their children associate the challenging concepts of addition and subtraction to real life.
• Problem solving skills: From deciding who gets to be the princess to taking turns hosting the tea party, pretend play allows children to tap into cognitive thinking skills they’ll use in different scenarios throughout life.
• Enhanced relationships and bonding: New worlds are opened when children and adults interact together through imaginary play. Adults can offer wisdom, life lessons and vocabulary the child will absorb.
• Good, clean fun: Pretend play is the best way for children to escape from the stresses of daily life. By creating their own make-believe world, kids have complete control of their destiny within that environment. With so many play dates and after-school activities, such a release is a positive for many youngsters.
More make-believe play means enhanced skills
Research shows an environment where imaginative play is fostered is healthy for a child’s development. Here is a snapshot of the many benefits this type of activity can provide to a child:
• Increased sense of safety, calmness and protection.
• Higher rates of self-esteem.
• Ability to cooperate, control impulses and deal with disappointment.
• Increased levels of fitness and coordination.
• Developed sense of individuality.
• Ability to negotiate with peers.
• Increased sense of accomplishment and pride.
• Ability to apply learned information.
• Highly developed motor skills.