Imaginary Play: How It Can Help Children



“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein –

What is imaginary play?

It is also known as pretend play. This usually happen at around two years of age through ages of six or seven. Pretending to be a teacher, a doctor, a postman, a mother etc. Or they can pretend to drive, to cook, and to serve tea. Children use their imagination, actions and language to do these activities.

These are some examples of pretend play: dressing up; playing shops; having tea parties with teddies and dolls; putting blocks in a truck and pushing it to the ‘building site’; playing in the sandpit with roads, trucks, graders etc. to create a play scene of transport vehicles; playing with dolls and feeding them, putting them to bed.

The ability to imagine and pretend is a crucial part of a child’s development and it helps to develop the creativity, empathy and emotional growth. Play prepares children for adulthood, and teaches them how to interact with the world.

Pretend play allows children to access feelings, and integrate feelings with cognition. Imaginary play stimulates children imagination and boosts social skills development through communication and problem solving in the play itself. It allows flexibility and creativity, and help children to make sense of their world. Children have the opportunity to express their needs or fears in their pretend play. Parents can use pretend play to understand their children.

What can promote imaginary play? Talk to your children and read to them regularly. You can nurture the imagination by having some old stuff to spark your children fantasy world. E.g. large plastic crates or a large empty box for creating a ‘home’; old clothes, shoes, bags, hats, old phones, magazines, cooking utensils, food containers, dishes, blankets, old sheets.

Enjoy playing!

(Written by Dr. Norharlina Bahar)

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