Children learn through observation, guidance, practice and experience. There’s a saying “Give a person a fish and they eat for a day. Teach a person to fish and they eat for a lifetime”. Children can be taught to have the skills and knowledge to deal with life’s challenges and to solve problems creatively through being encouraged to be active in play that involves creativity, learning, investigation and discovery.
Imaginative play ~
Play that is imaginative and creative will help the toddler to use their mind to find solutions to problems. One of the most important parts of imaginative play is for the child to pretend to be someone else or in different situations. This type of play helps promote a toddler’s learning through using role play to develop their imagination.
They will also be developing their emotional and social skills, sharing skills, manipulative skills, language and communication skills through this type of play. Not only this but it helps a child build on his or her self confidence and feelings of security. Through imaginative play, a child might run around, pretending he or she is a horse or a dog, an aeroplane or a train. At 3 – 4 years, they often do this on their own.
At other times, an adult could encourage imaginative play so the child might explore new situations and fantasy worlds. This will help the child to explore their feelings and the world around them in a safe, supervised environment. Children at this age are at Piaget’s Preoperational stage.
During the years from 2 to 6 Piaget saw the evidence of symbol use in many aspects of child’s behaviour. Children this age beginning to pretend in their play for example at age 2 or 3 or 4 a broom may become a horse, or a block may become a train. Imaginative play, through building towers out of bocks, talking to and feeding their dolls, making tea with the tea set and dressing in grown-up clothes is important and should never be classed as trivial..
Neither should soft toys or dolls be rejected as inappropriate for any age of either sex.
Examples of Imaginative Play Activities ~
Ask the children to make a pirate ship out of large cardboard boxes. They might make telescopes or binoculars out of kitchen tubes and a flag for their boat out of newspaper. Hats could be made and painted for them to wear while they’re at sea in their imaginary boat. How does this kind of play help in a child’s learning? As the children play with each other, they will be using their communication and language skills.
They will be developing their knowledge and understanding of the world around them through discussing different types of ships, how they are made and where they might go. Adults might teach them about pirates and the children could be encouraged to draw maps to imagine where they might sail. Building the boat and imagining themselves to be sailing on the seas is helping them develop their physical and creative skills.
Children should never be discouraged to use their imagination through play. This type of play is an important part of childhood and also an essential part of learning and developing.
Lindon, Jennie Understanding Children’s Play (Nelson Thornes 2001)
Pound, Linda How Children Learn: (Step Forward Publishing 2005)