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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Promoting Imaginative Play in Children - Practical Suggestions

By Andrew Loh

Children, who indulge themselves in a make-believe world when they are growing up, are more likely to perform better than their peers who do not play in a make-believe world. Imaginative play or thoughtful play, as experts call them, are among the best tools to promote quicker learning and mastery of several life and scholastic skills. An international expert on child education, Ed Miller, believes that “play is how children make sense of world around them. It is how they deal with stress and disappointment” (Read one of the best articles on “ Why Children need to play in school”).

The author also believes that all children start playing imaginatively at the age of three and they get active as they reach the age of five. One important fact that everyone should remember is that the benefits of imaginative play last longer and many older children still enjoy imaginative playing by using the power of their minds.

Parents' responsibilities and basic duties increase if they want to boost imaginative play in their children. Before initiating the process to teach imaginative play, they may want to follow some simple rules:

Design and create an imaginative-play friendly environment within the four walls of the house: Children create their preferred playing space in your house. Some of the places that they like are nooks and corners of a room, an open space like the backyard garden or even on the steps of a staircase. In fact, they do not like the busy areas of a home like kitchen, dining room or visitors' room. Children like protected spaces where it is quiet and protective so that they can open their box of imagination to play creatively. One of the most loved play set is a play tent that provides ample protection for children to play without any trouble and hindrances.

Bring home toys that allow children to indulge in multi-tasks: Conventional toys that boost imaginative play are colored balls, building tools, mechanical toys, dolls, kitchen sets, doctor tools, art supplies, painting materials, and cartoon sets. Make sure that the toys and play sets you purchase should be capable enough to allow children play in an imaginative manner. All toys should be open ended and they should pose questions rather providing answers.

Explore exterior spaces like public gardens, malls, libraries and trekking trails: Children are ready to learn from any type of environs including home and its exteriors like gardens, libraries, trekking trails or camping sites. Now, take your children outside and let them explore nature and surroundings. Let them play with garden soil, make castles in sea sand, build tree twig houses in a camp corner and study plants and animals that play and make merry in the wild nature. Let them use their brainpower and create numerous learning possibilities. Ask other parents to join in the adventure so that all children in your neighborhood get an advantage.

Do not be too intrusive and instructive: Remember that any activity that you initiate should be children-centric and they should have a say in the type of activities. You can just make suggestions or provide inputs and not tell them how they can do it. When children are playing together, never act as a referee to choose the best game. Let the children be children and do not interfere. When children play as a team, they will learn three important things in life- self-control, anger management and delayed gratification.

Things to consider and buy for your children

Before initiating activities that enhance imaginative play, you may wish buy and purchase several important tools, toys, play sets and materials. Here are some of them:

Buy art supplies and materials - Pencil, markers, different paints that are non-toxic and safe, crayons, gum, paper, chalks, art papers, paint brushes, color pens etc.

Create an art center in your house - You may want to create a thoughtful art and painting center in one of the corners of your house. Provide necessary utilities to your children so that they can use them to satisfaction.

Collage, printed materials, poster and other necessary supplies - Provide a boxful of collage supplies that contain paper cuttings, color posters, wallpapers, feathers, pictures and textured samples. Make sure to supply play dough, play clay materials and modeling wax too.

Provide a space to display finished materials - Another useful utility is a space to advertise finished materials that might include painting, patterns, drawing, models or even paper craft.

Create a small stage for drama and acting - Drama and acting along with role-play are important tools to enhance imaginative play. Create a small space for drama, role-playing and acting.

Purchase a dressing and makeup trunk - Bring home drama and acting gowns, T-shirts, hats, ties, coats, costumes, ornamental materials like necklaces, bangles, crowns, hair dressing materials, blankets, and other materials.

Introduce dramatic play - This is one of the best methods to teach children a number of skills. Pretend play sets and toys like kitchen items, doctors and nurses materials, engineering tools and camping tools always help children to get active in imaginative play.

Record how children play, act and behave - Children just love to see themselves in pictures and videos. Capture moments of joy when children are playing and acting. Show them final shots and ask them to improve the way in which they play and act. Another useful tool is a large mirror that helps children look and admire themselves and correct their postures and mannerisms.

Set a puppet theater - Playing with puppets is a nice idea for enhancing imaginative play. A small puppet theater will help children learn a number of skills apart from learning imagination and creative thinking.

Create an engineering and building section for boys - Boys always like to play with tools that relate to building houses and bridges, arranging blocks and patterns, or design and create engineering structures like rail lines, building roads or ships. Choose play sets that contain individual building items that demand advanced thinking and imaginative skills from children.

Options and possibilities are unlimited. You can create any type of environs that help children learn important skills like thinking and imagination. However, ensure that you are not confusing children with too many materials and tools that could be counter-productive in the end. Choose only those activities that keep them busy for at least two hours in a day.

Featured Resource

Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
By Stuart Brown M.D., Christopher Vaughan

Dr. Brown has spent his career studying animal behavior and conducting more than six- thousand "play histories" of humans from all walks of life-from serial murderers to Nobel Prize winners. Backed by the latest research, Play (20,000 copies in print) explains why play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve and more. Particularly in tough times, we need to play more than ever, as it's the very means by which we prepare for the unexpected, search out new solutions, and remain optimistic.

A fascinating blend of cutting-edge neuroscience, biology, psychology, social science, and inspiring human stories of the transformative power of play, this book proves why play just might be the most important work we can ever do.


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