The Value of Imaginative Play in Childhood Development


 “The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.” Joan Almon

Research has shown that ‘pretend’ or ‘imaginative play’ is an essential part of healthy and normal childhood development but can sometimes be dismissed as not being important compared to more educational based activities.

One of my all time favourite quotes is by Albert Einstein himself who said that “play is the highest form of research”.  I think he pretty much sums it up perfectly!


Play enables children to connect all the elements of their life as they experience it. It is an outlet for the fullness of their creativity, and it is an absolutely critical part of their childhood. With imaginative play, children blossom and flourish.

Here are a few of the benefits of pretend play;

Social, Emotional and Language Skills


Through role-play your child is experimenting in a safe environment, ways to express new ideas and feelings. They learn how to take turns, share responsibility, and problem-solve.

Playing with others helps children learn compassion, empathy, and understanding. Knowing how to read social cues, recognize and regulate their emotions, negotiate and take turns, and engage in a long-term activity that is mutually beneficial are important life skills that your child will need for the rest of their lives.

Pretend play also prepares them for uncertain scenarios such as going to the doctors or dealing with negative emotions such as sadness or anger. So let them express all emotions, both positive and negative.


Learning and Problem Solving Skills


Pretend play provides your child with a variety of problems to solve as often children have to work together to find solutions.  You will often find them playing out real-life situations that they might have observed at home.

Learning takes place continuously through role-play as children are learning about themselves and their world.


Parents role in pretend play;

There is nothing more satisfying than watching your child play imaginary games for hours and role playing with their toys. You can learn so much about their world!

The role of parents is to provide these opportunities for pretend play by setting up play stations or areas within the home (both outside and inside) so your child can initiate play. Pretend play really develops or takes a leap at 3 years of age but all children are different. For children under 3, I find helping them get started in play by initiating it yourself really works. Then once they are playing you can slowly step back and let them play alone or with siblings / friends.

Also try to remember not to tell your child what to do or correct them when they are playing. Play needs to be spontaneous and children need to express language and emotions completely, without being told they shouldn’t by their parents. And being silly and crazy is all part of it! Let them be silly and have fun! That’s what childhood is meant to be, you can even join in and let your inner child play and let go of the restraints of adult life.


If you are looking for ideas on imaginative play spaces, then check out our article here. 

Eco Toys has a huge range of quality pretend play wooden toys, from kitchens to kitchen play food, trains and trucks, outdoor toys for sand and water play, musical toys, dollhouses, treehouses and wooden building blocks. Check out our online store for all your pretend play toys.




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