Our society has evolved from using stones to build houses to using stones as decorations in our houses. And since the stone-age, we have made so much progress that we have become a world with all of our time and energies consumed in trying to cure diseases, discovering new planets, working and living in dense communities. Being in such a stressful world, can we allow ourselves and our children to relax, have fun and play? Absolutely! In fact, we should encourage our children to play because it is their way to learn and be creative.
Imaginative play is a type of play where children starts to role – play or act out events they previously experienced, observed or are of their special interest. Children starts to do imaginative play from the age of two and a half through six or seven years.
“Engaging children in this type of play allows the expression of both positive and negative feelings, and the modulation of affect, the ability to integrate emotion with cognition (Jent, Niec, & Baker, 2011; Seja, & Russ, 1999; Slade and Wolf, 1999).”
Play can help develop your child emotionally, physically, socially and cognitively.
Make-believe play may appear simple to execute but oftentimes, we run out of ideas! So, here are 5 easy, inexpensive and inventive ways of using the things around the house to bring out your child’s imaginative play.
You will need: Shaving cream/foam, dishwashing soap, big plastic container to put the foam, food colouring or liquid watercolour
Procedures: For information in making colourful soap foam bubbles using your dishwashing soap, click here.
If you are using shaving cream/foam, squeeze out an ample amount of shaving foam into the plastic container. You can put as much as you want! Place a drop of food colouring or liquid water colour into the foam, mix and enjoy! You and your child can pretend to be scientists trying to experiment by mixing some solutions.
If you are using more than 1 colour, prepare them separately before combining them in a big container. Again, let your imagination let loose! You can never go wrong with bubbles and foam!
This activity works very well with children who enjoy messy play and who may have sensory issues. It’s another fun way to teach your child new words such as soft, bubbly, fluffy, colourful, foamy, wet, etc!
You will need: Pillows (of any sizes), bolsters, furnitures such as chairs or sofas
Procedures: Set up the game whereby players (in this case, you and your kids) line up from a starting line. Each player holds the pillow between their legs to pretend it to be a horse or a pony and race to the finish line. You can create a series of obstacles that players have to go through. You may use bolsters for the “ponies” to jump over or chairs to go around. To pretend the pillows to be cars, it is best to sit on it and use your legs to move forward. Now, this can be tricky as it works best on floors with tiles or wood. Again, your imagination is limitless!
You will need: socks (any colour will do), any arts and crafts materials you have at home (e.g buttons, strings, pompoms, glue, etc.)
Procedures: The fun begins in creating your puppet. Let you child decide how the puppet would look like. Make it simple and try not to give too many choices to make it easier for your child to decide on what to do. When done, let them name their puppets!
Use these puppets as characters during conversations or pretend plays!
You will need: Toy animals, any stuffed- toys you have at home, pillows, boxes or shoeboxes (to serve as gates/cages), paper plates (or any plastic plates)
Procedures: Get all your toy animals out (if you have). If you don’t have toy animals, use any stuffed toys. Place the “animals” inside the boxes to look like they are at the zoo. You can also use pillows to box the animals in. Place the animals in different areas in the living room or bedroom. Invite your child to pretend to be a zoo keeper to feed the animals or to give them a check up. It is important to create opportunities during play so your child learns to problem – solve. For example, pretend that one of the monkeys escaped! Oh no! What to do? Or one of the elephants is sick and needs medical attention. Put your thinking hat on and let the animals come to life!
You will need: Blankets, chairs, sofa, stool and pillows
Procedures: Arrange your furniture in such a way that it creates a hollow space in the middle. This space will be your “tent” that can fit both you and your child. Place the blanket over the furniture to create the “tent”. Now the fun begins! Bring in your snacks, books and even boardgames! Pretend to roast some marshmallows over “bonfire” or drink hot chocolate!
These are just few ideas to encourage imaginative play with your child. Every child has their own interest and level of play skills, so make the necessary adjustments to suit their level. Do not forget to use language that are appropriate for their current skills. There is only one thing to remember when playing… and that is to have FUN!
If you have more ideas to share, please add them in the comments section below. We sure want to hear them!
Jent, J.F., Niec, L.N., & Baker, S.E. (2011). Play and interpersonal processes. In S.W. Russ & L.N. Niec (Eds.), Play in clinical practice: Evidence-based approaches. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Seja, A.L., & Russ, S.W. (1999). Children’s fantasy play and emotional understanding. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 28, 269-277.
Schwartz, S. (2004). The new language of toys: Teaching Communication Skills to Children with Special Needs, 3rd Edition. Woodbine House.
Slade, S & Wolf, D. P.(1999). Play: Clinical and developmental approaches to meaning and representation. Oxford University Press.