You may think that children play just because they enjoy it. It is fun, of course, but did you know... 
You may think that children play just because they enjoy it. It is fun, of course, but did you know that engaging in imaginative play can provide so many developmental benefits for children? Imaginative play is when children engage in free play and make up their own games and decide how they want to play. Unstructured free play allows children to just be what they want without setting them limitations to their play. Anytime a child is playing with something and pretending, they are participating in imaginative play. Here we will explain 4 of the main benefits imaginative play provides children: 
 
1. Language + social skills 
 
Imaginative play gives children the opportunity to experiment with different language and vocabulary. They may learn new words from friends and will take time practising listening skills and taking turns whilst talking. These are important skills to have whilst going into adult life. They may impersonate other people or pretend to be different roles or characters. Often this can be quite funny to listen to! This can help them to learn different behaviours and introduces role-play to children. Playgrounds are a great way for children to engage in imaginative play and develop their language skills as they can mix with a range of different age groups, some of which may be older, and younger children learn a lot from their language and imitating their behaviours. 
 
2. Promotes creativity 
 
Imaginative play increases creativity in children. It allows their imagination to run free and come up with scenarios that they may have seen or watched and create their own version it. This is key for in later life they will need to be able to creatively problem solve. Encouraging creativity is important and providing props and materials may be beneficial to enhance little imaginations. They may be able to create different scenes for what they are imagining using these props and materials. Other ways to encourage creativity is to explore the outdoors and nature. Weather changes, patterns and seasons all give children more knowledge that they can use in their imaginative play. Children can gather different materials from outside such as sticks, leaves and rocks so that they can make their pretend buildings or whatever it is they are imagining. The possibilities are endless in the outdoors! 
3. Physical development 
 
Imaginative play provides many benefits for physical development even if sometimes it doesn’t appear that way. Playing with little fiddly things such as buttons on dolls and Lego pieces all help to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Gross motor skills are often used in playgrounds where more muscles are used. For example, running round pretending to be an aeroplane taking off from the runway or everyone climbing aboard a pirate ship! Outdoor playgrounds are the perfect place to develop gross motor skills and give children the free space they need to engage in imaginative play. 
 
4. Problem solving 
 
During imaginative play many problems occur, and the more children engage in imaginative play the more they learn about problems and better they become at solving these. Some of the few problems that may come up are arguments about characters, doing something wrong in the scene they are roleplaying or finding appropriate props. These are all ways that the children will expand their cognitive thinking by trying to solve the issue, which are skills they’ll always use and need in life. When problems arise, they learn how to share and become more responsible. Without being able to use our cognitive abilities in later life we would never be able to discover new things properly or invent anything new. 
 
For children to engage in imaginative play they need to be given plenty of opportunities and lots for playtime. This gives them chance to explore the endless possibilities of where their play can take them. They also may need some encouragement or ideas from adults about what they should play but imaginative play should not be completely adult led as the children need to learn to think for themselves, which is another benefit of participating in regular imaginative play. One really easy way to encourage imaginative play is to read lots of books to children as this really stimulates their imagination, especially if they are properly engrossed in the story and pictures. 
 
We can help you design a play area that suits your needs, space and budget. If you would like to create a fun space where children can engage in lots of free imaginative play, please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of our team on 0116 402 9099 or click here to view our products.  
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