Imaginative play allows children to develop important language and social skillsEncourage imaginative play in your kids simply by allowing them to play and interact with others!  

Playing and having fun is truly a convenient way for children to learn these precious skills.  Imaginative play refers to unstructured and open play where kids can role-play or act out characters and situations.  These can be things they either have or wish to experience.

Imaginative games usually have no strict rules, goals or specific results.  Kids can take the games in whatever direction they choose and this helps them learn a lot of new skills.  


Some interesting examples include: 

  • student/teacher play, 
  • customer/salesperson play, 
  • show hosting play, 
  • business role-play, 
  • imaginary role-playing. 

Imaginative play for children is essential to develop problem-solving and self-regulation abilities.  Encourage imaginative play in your children and watch as they develop their independence. 

encourage child to use their imagination using play

How to Encourage Imaginative Play

Parents can employ many ways to encourage imaginative play for children.  Indeed, you can decide what is most suitable for them based on what is around at any given time. 

Read on for our easy and effective tips to encourage imaginative play

1. Screen Time Kills Imaginative Play For Children

Experimenting with things helps children develop their problem-solving skills.  The ability to solve problems will allow them to do much in life.

These days, children spend a lot of time watching TV, playing video games, or on devices.  When watching a screen, they are not interacting with others and certainly not solving problems. There is no imaginative play for children when they are staring at a screen.

screen time effects on kids imagination

The Mayo Clinic recommends one hour per day of screen time for children aged 2 – 5 years. 

Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics states: children under 2 should not have screen time unless video chatting.  It further states that children under 2 should not be watching anything alone.  

We all know that children learn a lot through watching what others do. This means if they see you on devices most of the time, they will want to do the same.

So, to avoid this, try to limit your own screen time.  Become a role model for your kids and encourage imaginative play by setting up some fun activities.   

2. Be Engaged and Encourage Imaginative Play

As stated above, parents are the ultimate role models for their children. Kids will follow where their parents lead.  Help imaginative play in your children by teaching them different ways to engage in role-playing.

For example, become the student while your child acts as the teacher.

Create a TV show scenario where your child is the host and you or other children are guests or contestants.

When you actively engage and encourage imaginative play with kids, you unconsciously impart valuable lessons.  It is a great learning opportunity for both parents and kids.

3. Embrace the Mess

Don’t be afraid to splurge a little on arts and craft activities.  In imaginative play, children will use different toys and tools to build on their imagined scenarios. Using their imagination and their hands helps develop important cognitive skills. 

Sure, we all know that art and crafts will leave a mess!  However, don’t discourage imaginative play just because there will be a clean-up at the end.

In fact, use this opportunity as another lessen in imaginative play.  Get your children’s help in cleaning the mess by telling they are now special cleaners.  Sit back and let them do the rest!

4. Don’t Limit Their Options With Gender Stereotypes

importance of Imaginative play

Imaginative play in children knows no stereotypes.  There are no specific roles suited only to a particular sex. 

If a girl wants to play with trucks, let her!  If she wants to be Superman, encourage imaginative play by joining in. 

Boys can play with kitchen sets while girls can play with racing cars or Star War toys. It’s totally fine.

Breaking gender stereotypes is an excellent outcome of imaginative play in children. 

5. Encourage Imaginative Play Using Regular Household Items

It isn’t always necessary to buy toys to encourage kids to play.  They can use their imagination while turning everyday household items into pretend play. 

In fact, children often find treasures around the house that they prefer to play with.  Here are some examples of household items you can use in imaginative play:

  • Stationery supplies for pretend teacher-student play
  • Clothes and shoes for pretend salesperson
  • Make a fort out of cushions and let the kids explore their options
  • Use kitchen utensils and become a top chef
  • Grab some notepaper and pens to be a roving news reporter 
  • Cut paper and have them make their own money.  They can use this to run a store of any kind with things gathered around the house..
  • Drag out some old clothes and jewellery.  Let them pretend to be models or celebrities.
imaginative play using household items


It is essential to use imaginative play for children to build problem-solving, language, and cognitive skills.  Parents should encourage imaginative play by getting involved without interrupting. 

As role models, we need to be aware that children learn through watching what we do and emulating it.  Additionally, suggest some fun “stuff” for children to use and reuse to get them using their imaginations. 

Most importantly, avoid giving advice on how they conduct themselves during role play.  This has the potential to limit imaginative play for children as they may see that there is a “right” or “wrong” way. 

We hope you find this article helpful!

Read more: Literacy Development Activities For Children.