Successful parents use imagiinative play to have some rare ‘screen-free’ time. The children are playing by themselves.

My 2 year old was quietly sorting through her box of wooden shapes.  She soon handed me her delicious dinner on a plate. 

As I oohed and ahhed at this culinary delight, I praised her cooking skills.  Inwardly, I was delighted with her imaginative play.


Benefits of imaginative play in Child Development?

Successful parents know that play is important to a childs development.

It is the way children develop various life skills and behavior.

When we think of play, the first thing to pop into our minds is ‘physical play.’ Moving our bodies, exploring our surroundings or moving things around. 

We often miss the mental thoughts and developing creativity that makes up imaginative play.

As parents, we often fail to truly understand how important ‘imaginative play’ is. 

Successful parents realise the necessity of unlocking a childs creativity.  This adds to  their development through imagination and imaginative play.



What is Imaginative Play?

To understand its value, we need to take a closer look at what it is exactly.

Imaginative play, pretend play or role-play, is a make-believe activity. 

Children act out people or experiences that are of interest to them.

creative play for children


Child Development and Imaginative Play – The Science

Jean Piaget (1951) defined imaginative play or symbolic play as, “a symbolic transposition which subjects things to the child’s activity, without rules or limitations.”

He found that children will engage in pretend play as early as 18 months.  They  use familiar objects (for example, a spoon) to mimic specific actions (eating).

The Swiss scientist reported that as children aged so did their ability to engage in pretend play.  

This ranged from simple make-believe activities to more complex and elaborative scenarios.  These would involve rules and multiple roles.

He categorised these stages as Pre-operational (2-7years) and Concrete operational (7-11 years of age) stages of cognitive development. 

His process outlined the child’s development from forming simple mental connections between objects, to more refined, logical relationships and schemas.

 In non-science words, imaginative play is a process.  During this process children try to understand and make sense of the world around them.

Child Development Benefits of Imaginative Play

Successful parents understand the reasons behind how imaginative play brings huge benefits to a child’s development.


Identifying with the real world:

Have you noticed your little one dragging your bag and heading out to the office? Or watched them pull out your pots and pans to cook a meal for the family?

During imaginary play, children become more aware of and practice the roles and actions of the people around them.

They imitate you!!

Successful parents know the importance of living good examples.  This will encourage positive child development through “pretend” or imaginative play.


Development of social-emotional skills:

Once, I heard my son rebuke his Lightning McQueen car for cutting the line.  It was actually Mater’s turn to go down the slide he had created.

Using their imagination during play teaches children the art of sharing, taking turns, cooperating, compromising, and negotiating.

It also helps them to be more understanding of their feelings and those of others.

These are positive qualities that parents want to instill as their children develop.

Children, when engaging in imaginary play with others, freely practice using the “magic words.” Please, thank you, sorry, and excuse me.

Successful parents know that this facilitates the child’s development of good social relationship skills.

A child acting as a doctor or nurse will ask the patient ” how he or she feels?” Or they will rub the patient’s arm after administering an injection.


Cognitive skill development:

Imaginative play provides children with the developmental opportunity to practice and sharpen their cognitive skills.

These include planning, organizing, decision-making, and problem-solving.

It helps them to set and follow rules, and understand the importance of actions and consequences.

All are major development opportunities that successful parents recognize as important.

pretend play for children

Fosters creativity:

Every child including you and I, have dreamed of being either a superhero, princess, or maybe the wizard with super skills. Over the years, only the characters have changed!

Engaging their imaginative play encourages children to think out-of-the-box and to dream big.

In imaginary games, children are not restricted by real-world limitations.  This enables them to explore themselves and gain confidence in their abilities.

It is this confidence as a child develops that successful parents say leads to the child reaching beyond any perceived boundaries.


Develops Language skills:

Child development of language, verbal and non-verbal, and listening skills through imaginary play is well-known.

What we often perceive as mutterings, are actually amazing impromptu storylines being created by the second.


Safe spaces:

Imaginary play is always a safe space.

It encourages children to freely practice their skills without fear of embarrassment or failure.

As successful parents will tell you it also enables the to make sense of any negative feelings or turmoil.


Learning opportunities:

Parents can make use of imaginative play as great learning opportunities.

Use this time to demonstrate and teach children the right actions and behaviors.

An example may be: “Peppa Pig says it’s time to clean up.” Which may be a better verbal prompt for children to follow rather than saying “pick up your toys!”. 

We can also use imaginary play to help set boundaries and teach skills that keep our children safe.

Remember that imaginative play is typically based on the child’s perception of those around them.

Spoiler alert: this includes the negatives too. Successful parents recognize that any negative emotion is also a valuable insight to a child’s development.  If we see the problem, we can find ways to deal with it.

imaginative play for toddlers

Encouraging Imaginative play

Wondering how to facilitate imaginary play in your household?

Here are three key ideas to get you started:

  • Space, time and props can stir up your child’s imagination. Allow them free access to your dining table, and use of objects like toilet rolls, cardboard boxes etc. These help kickstart your child’s imaginative development.


  •  Be their play partner. Children need our attention and there is no greater gift we can give them than the gift of our time.
  •  Make opportunities. Dress up, plan a tea party or a picnic. All  these can help both entertain your child and fire up their imagination.



Being a child should be mainly about having fun.

The successful parents we spoke to know there is no better way to help children develop and enjoy play than to help them engage their imagination and get lost in imaginary play.

Want to know more about how successful parents help their childrens development?

Read our article on 10 Best Parenting Tips for Kids Behaviours.