How to encourage imaginative play

Choose the right toys for your little one

Little ones will often invent their very own imaginative games and stories with little or no encouragement from toys or people, particularly if they already take part in lots of pretend play.

If a little one has taken part in lots of structured play, whether with interactive electronic toys or games with specific goals, they may find it slightly tricky taking part in totally unstructured play at first. However, with a tiny bit of encouragement from the right toys they will very quickly become fully immersed in pretend play, and there's also lots of encouragement that can come from parents and family members.

Join in the fun

Encouragement from family members or friends not only enhances imaginative play, but it's so much fun for the little ones to have company and someone to talk to while playing out these adventures. With just a little involvement from mum and dad, or a brother or sister, playtime can become so much more exciting. It's a chance to bounce ideas and stories between each other to enhance the pretend scenarios, all the while developing so many important social and communication skills.

For mum and dad to also take part in the pretend play is really exciting and encouraging for little ones, as well as being a great chance to reflect real life scenarios into the play and teach them ideal ways of dealing with certain situations. This will develop confidence and social skills ready for real life situations.

Ask questions

For mum or dad to ask questions about what's happening in their little one's play scenarios is really beneficial as this not only shows interest but also encourages them to talk about the play and their imagination, communicating their thoughts and thinking about how the play scenarios can progress.

Invite their friends to play

Playing with friends encourages lots of chatting, compromising and working together to create exciting imaginative adventures. These are actually amazingly complicated skills to learn, and are valuable skills that will last a lifetime.

If a little one decides their dolly should be tidying up the dolls house kitchen, while their little friend thinks they should be playing in the living room, they'll need to find a way of communicating their thoughts and compromising. If the children are playing home-makers, they'll need to play fair and learn to share the roles, deciding who plays out which character in their playhouse. This is so beneficial for all kinds of play as well as social situations as they grow.

Photos courtesy of our customers Jaqui Fairfax and Lois Gunn