As OOSH/OSHC educators, it is our responsibility to provide activities that appeal to a variety of interests. It is equally important to encourage children to explore and develop these interests, through the notion of imaginative play.
What is imaginative play?
More often than not, children immerse themselves in their own creative roleplay. This can take the form of mums and dads, doctors and nurses or any other kind of play where a child takes on the role of another sentient being.
This is imaginative play.
Children perceive much of the world through personal experience, but seek to better understand it by engaging with different perspectives during play. As educators, it is extremely important to not invalidate these types of activities in favour of planned and structured exercises. Children need time to develop greater cognitive abilities that help shape their growth in the future.
Whether it is through planned activities, or just spontaneous play, children need to be supported during their efforts to recognise their place in the world.
Why it is Important
The benefits of encouraging imaginative play are immense.
By providing a safe space for children to construct familiar and sometimes unfamiliar scenes, creativity is fostered and experiences gained that otherwise would remain foreign. For example, whilst playing shops, children will understand the experience from the perspective of a parent, rather than that of a child.
When playing with a group of friends as often is the case, communication is essential. Roleplay activities assist the development of communication and emotional intelligence as children attempt to place themselves and their friends in the same imaginative space. This can be done through building a castle out of lego and imagining themselves being the kings and queens that reside there, or just pretending to be astronauts.
Not just noticing children engaging in imaginative play, but actively encouraging this behaviour will also boost self-esteem. Too often, children are taken from their creative bubble and told to participate in structured activities deemed of greater importance. We need not dictate how the minds of children should function. Children must develop their own identity, away from the rigid demands of school and home life. OOSH/OSHC centres provide an avenue of escape for children. And it is our job to protect this at all costs.
How to encourage it in your centre
Facilitation > encouragement
There are three easy ways you can encourage imaginative play in your centre.