"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 will be ever to know and understand" Albert Einstein
From around about 18 months children will start to use their imagination during play. It is also the start of what will hopefully be a lifelong love and curiosity to learn. Both curiosity and imagination can be inspired by parental nurturing.
Why is Role Play Important?
Role play is an important part of developing imagination and curiosity (creativity) and for your young child’s overall development as it helps to build confidence, communication, physical development, and problem-solving skills.
During role play your child can express themselves and explore language freely without any rules. While they are playing and giving their toys characters, they are increasing their understanding of how conversations evolve, which helps them develop self-confidence. At this age, your toddler learns the ability to questions, an important language milestone. Role play is very important for the development of emotional understanding and social skills. Play allows them to safely explore their feelings. They learn about the need to develop co-operation, empathy for others, and self-control when playing with other children. However, this is a hard lesson to learn and challenging behaviour may ensue! Free play gives them the chance to make choices and decisions without the constraints of there being a right or wrong way of doing things. There are no limits with imaginative play…
Role play allows your child to operate within a fantasy world of their own making, firing their creativity and at the same time increasing their mathematical and science skills. By playing your child will start to learn about the world around them. They will learn about what is possible and what is not. They will realise what in nature they can influence and change and learn to solve problems.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new” Albert Einstein
Another benefit of role play is that by allowing your child to act out real life situations you can help them learn about potentially stressful unknown situations, such as a visit to hospital. By role playing games at home beforehand you will better prepare them for the real-life experience. Involving toys and puppets can help children express emotions through the toy that they may not be able to tell you about themselves, e.g. “teddy is a bit frightened”
As a parent you have an important role in nurturing this development. A good approach is to follow your toddler's lead and spot what they are interested in. Take features of an activity you know they enjoy and bring in some extra learning. Toddlers love to be independent and are learning to make their own choices, so it is great to encourage this and avoid overly asserting your control over their play. As they grow, they will also learn from other members of their family, their peers, and older children. Mixing with a variety of people will help fire their imagination and learning further.
Older toddlers can try our Junior class at Baby College where we have a new play theme each week and parents are given lots of ideas of how to encourage their child’s imagination and creativity.