Almost every child is born with an untamed imagination. Kids can spend hours upon hours pretending to be their favourite superhero, profession, or airplane, and never tire of the adventure. We are all familiar with the concept of imagination, but just how important is imaginary play in a child's life?
Through imagination, children are able to express themselves in a way unlike any other. For some kids, it becomes an escape from reality, especially where home or school problems are involved. A simple hat, truck, or cardboard box opens the world of exploration for young children.
The most unique characteristic of imaginary play is the fact that it stimulates a variety of learning behaviours. Using such seemingly common methods of play is actually a way for children to exercise their knowledge of the world around them and develop skills in problem-solving, cooperation, individual play, and social interaction.
Perhaps the most widespread version of imaginary play is role-playing. Most children are more than happy to step into someone else's shoes - literally or figuratively - and take on a new life and personality. Children often imitate adult behaviour, making it crucial for parents, caregivers, and other adult influences to provide positive examples.
Imagination also provides children an opportunity to experience otherwise-impossible time periods and environments. One popular example, particularly with young boys, is that of the dinosaur era. Many boys pretend to be a dinosaur or imagine that they live in the same timeframe; it's not only fun, but also educational and a source of stress relief. Commonly, with young children, imaginary play will centre around dolls. Although it appears to be “regular" play to adults, these children are building a foundation for their futures.
Of course, imaginary play is at the height of creativity, an integral component in everyday life. Regardless of the situation or age, creativity provides children (and adults) an outlet to express their individuality. It plays a key role in drawing and storymaking skills, as well as tasks related to school, home, and other indoor and outdoor play. Each child's interpretation of the world is just as unique as the child.
As technology expands throughout the school system and at home, experts have expressed concern that kids’ imaginary play is at risk. Some professionals believe that certain games and toys are at the mercy of the creator's imagination, causing children to assume the imaginary capabilities of someone else. The majority of parents, caregivers and teachers disagree, maintaining that children have the ability to incorporate imagination into any endeavour. A child's imagination takes on a life form of its own that, hopefully, can't be restricted or eliminated by outside sources.
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