Thankfully with having 4 children, I realized early on that imaginative play has huge benefits. While I create a boatload of worksheets and printable activities for us to use in our homeschool, they never trump pretend play.
Imaginative play is a priority in our home.
For many years, I felt like I wasn’t disciplined enough with early childhood learning.
Have you seen all of the fabulous worksheets, printables, and guided learning on Pinterest? It can make you feel inadequate in a hurry.
Even worse, I was afraid I was setting myself up for lazy kids who wouldn’t be able to sit at a desk or learn to write.
I am so grateful I trusted that Mother Instinct that God gives each of us, and let my children just play.
Please know that we had – and currently have – plenty of guided learning time, but imaginative play has benefits that you just can’t get from sitting at a desk with a worksheet.
I’m sure that psychologists and sociologists can provide much more detailed answers, but I’m only familiar with the benefits of imaginative play that I see in my own home.
If you aren’t certain that imaginative play is “okay” for most days, or you feel like you’re doing something wrong because you didn’t get to experience this type of imaginative free reign as a child, keep reading.
I want to share the beautiful fruit that I’m seeing by allowing ample amounts of time for imaginative play. Be encouraged!
→ Don’t miss this sister post on How I Encourage Pretend Play in our Homeschool!
Pretend Play Lets Me Get a Glimpse into Their Minds
The conversations that my 5 year old orchestrates between the family members of the doll house are just mind blowing to me. Her doll family has serious discussions!
In the doll family, the daughter tells the mom about the episode of Little House on the Prairie that she just watched on the pretend television. Or the doll family son reads a book to the baby – and my 5 year old recites the poem that we’re learning in our Power Hour morning time.
Some days the doll family mom prepares dinner for the family and they sit down to eat at the pretend table, complete with How was your day, Daddy?
When I hear my daughter creating the conversation among the doll house family, I get to peek inside her little brain.
What is she thinking about today?
I know that she’s thinking about the snow from last week, because the doll house kids are talking about making snow angels.
Or she’s thinking about dog sitting our neighbor’s pet because the doll house dog is being walked, fed, and watered.
Especially if you have reserved children, these little glimpses inside their thoughts and feelings are such treasures!
So make sure you’re listening, Mamas.
Imaginative Play Helps Them Work Out Their Feelings
When my children are experiencing high emotions – good or bad – imaginative play can be an outlet for getting a handle on those feelings.
When my 6 year old is feeling especially anxious, I often suggest playing with her LEGO or with her airplane set – two of her favorite pretend play activities.
She can work out all of those feelings while she manipulates the people in the plane, setting them right where she desires.
All the while, she’s working out her emotions while her plane passengers have conversations.
If she’s feeling feisty, those conversations are usually a bit heated! If she’s feeling kind and gentle, I hear a lot of ‘please’ and ‘thank yous.’
Building Imagination – The Goal!
Building imagination is truly at the heart of pretend play. And the benefits of encouraging imagination?
Oh, the positives are fruit I will get to witness their whole lives!
♥ Creative imaginations help my children be problem solvers, whether we’re having a math lesson, or whether we’re having a life lesson.
♥ They will be more adept at thinking outside of the box, something that I admittedly have trouble with. When my children can easily construct an animal scene with just a few paper plates and some markers, they will be more creative adult thinkers when a unique solution is needed.
♥ Creative writing will come easier to them. Writing poetry, short stories, and plays will be easier for them since they already tap into that side of their brains frequently. I’m already seeing so many marvelous writing pieces coming from my older 2 children. I believe that is a direct result of their many hours spent in imaginative play as very young (and older) children.
Pretend Play Gives Them Time to Just Be Children
This is my favorite reason for pretend play: it gives them the opportunity to just be children.
And don’t all kids deserve that?
The #1 job of my children, especially in the early years, is to play. Not worksheets and printables, not even hands-on directed activities, but genuine play.
I try so very hard to keep our lives simple so my children can linger over the blocks, or take the time to build a LEGO city, or to create a club house upstairs in the corner of the playroom.
What joy they experience sitting in their homemade forts – the giggling is endless!
As their mama, I see it as my job to ensure there is adequate time for this type of play and memory-making.
Is imaginative play a priority in your home? What are the benefits that you see for your own children?