I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children!
There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.
“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.
Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.
By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.
Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.
For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.
If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.
You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.
(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)
I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.
Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.
Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.
Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.
Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).
Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.
If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!
This is a great article with some more ideas.