How To Encourage Imaginative Play in Toddlers?

By Katrina Oliver

Every adult looks back fondly on their days of pretend play in childhood. Whether pretending to be a superhero, a chef, or a grandparent, pretend play is a favorite for many young children.

However, imaginative play isn’t just a fun way to spend the time.

It’s also a necessary element of children’s development to create and act out imaginative scenarios with their peers.

Imaginative play helps children learn to have a deeper understanding of culture and society.

It builds their social emotional skills and begins to develop empathy and collaboration.

Pretend play can even help develop your child’s language skills as they practice pretend conversations between one another.

While many children are endlessly fascinated by imaginative play, some take more time to warm up to the idea.

To help your child start to participate in the enriching activity of pretend play, follow these simple steps:

Get it going

Some kids simply don’t come to imaginative play intuitively.

You can help them start to process the idea by getting the ball rolling yourself.

While playing with your child, start playing with toys imaginatively and start engaging in some pretend play.

Your child will see how you are playing and start to model their own play after yours.

Initial pretend play can be very simple and be nothing more than talking into a play phone, pretending to eat some food, or pretending to lay down and sleep.

Simply implanting the idea and letting you and your child have fun with it will help them understand how to engage in imaginative play.

Start with their interests

There are endless ways for children to engage in pretend play, whether it be pretending to be a grocery store clerk or a dinosaur.

However, if your child is obsessed with superheroes, he’s probably not going to be as interested in participating in pretend play that takes place in the post office.

Offer your child pretend play materials that are catered to their own interests, and initiate pretend play scenes with them that revolve around things they’re already familiar with and like.

Their interest will skyrocket!

You’d be amazed at how many special interests you can manage to turn into a pretend play scenario.

If your child loves sports, offer jerseys in the dress-up area.

If your child is a particular enthusiast in animals, initiate a pretend play like you are animals and zookeepers in a zoo.

Allow for some mess

Part of imaginative play is allowing children to follow their impulses and create.

Sometimes that means that a lot of mess gets made!

Imaginative play may involve a lot of costumes, props, and toys.

Kids may like to set up a whole restaurant in the living room, or get out each and every one of the stuffed animals on the floor.

Embrace that this is a necessary part of play and let them enjoy it.

As long as there is plenty of time to clean up after, there’s no harm in a little bit of mess around the house!

Give them free time

Lots of kids today wind up scheduled to their limit. Between school, extracurricular activities, and family events, they wind up with little to no time to spend playing with their mind free to wander.

In order to engage with their imagination, kids need free time where they can be with their own thoughts rather than having to follow someone else’s instructions.

Give kids plenty of time during the week where they have large, uninterrupted blocks of time to play however and wherever they like. Before you know it they’ll be acting out their own elaborate stories!

Read together

If spending time together each day to read with your child isn’t already a part of your routine, it should be!

In addition to the obvious benefits to your child’s literary and linguistic skills, it also has a surprisingly large impact on your child’s imagination and creativity.

Reading books gives children a chance to imagine other worlds and people, and practice their imagination skills as they listen to or read a story. They can picture the events is the stories within their own mind.

Reading often and broadly can help give a child plenty of practice imagining – and perhaps some inspiration for the stories they wish to tell in their pretend play!

By following these simple steps, your child will be well on their way to play inspired creative pretend play and engaging their imaginative young minds.


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