The Magic of Imaginative Play

Reading Time: 4 minutes

What is Imaginative Play?

Imaginative play see’s young learners take on the role of inventors and decision-makers, creating their own world where they are free to express their feelings and experiment with narratives. The Early Years Foundation Stage highlights Expressive Arts and Design as a specific area of learning and development, breaking it down into ‘being imaginative’ and ‘exploring and using media and materials’. Children often draw upon their own experiences and observations to represent their ideas through mediums such as art, dance, music, small world, pretend play and storytelling.


Why is it important?

Imaginative play is a key component of learning. It enables children to make sense of the world around them and to develop essential skills from problem solving to emotional intelligence. Here are some examples:


Communication and Language

By the age of three children will begin to take part in interactive play and within group settings will begin to develop essential communication skills. Children often feel safer communicating their feelings during pretend play, and such can be used as a forum for re-enacting experiences that may cause worry or unease such as visiting the doctors or starting school. Through different pretend scenarios children begin to understand that different styles of language are used for different settings, people and situations.



Being Imaginative

As a child’s imaginative play develops they will begin to enjoy using real-life props such as pretend irons, kitchen utensils and medical kits. These provide the foundation for children to enter into a fantasy world, giving them the confidence to draw upon their own experiences through play as they take on the role of someone else. As children become more confident in pretend play they can begin to introduce more abstract props such as coloured blocks and cardboard boxes and take on more complex roles.

Jade from Raising the Rings has been growing vegetables and cleaning the house with our New Sprouts range;

“The imaginative play opportunities are great because while it’s all pretend, it’s something that’s really happening too, and something he’ll be helping out with in the future, which is why it’s so important to make it fun.”

Read the full review here. 


New Sprouts® Grow it! My Very Own Garden Set. Reviewed by Raising the Rings



Imaginative Play

Playing imaginatively can also be carried out through activities such as art, movement, music and sculpting.  These types of play encourage the exploration of different materials, tools and techniques, experimenting with colour, design, texture, form and function.


Learning Resources Playfoam® Range


Social and Emotional

Imaginative play lays the foundation for a child’s social skills and through interacting with others they will begin to learn skills such as listening to other people’s ideas, compromising in situations and reading body language and social cues.  Even the act of initiating pretend play with another is a social act. These skills will be transferred from fantasy worlds to real-life scenarios and will provide the basis for children to grow into emotionally intelligent adults. Imaginative play often flicks between different worlds and scenarios in quick succession, also teaching children how to successfully adapt to new situations and surroundings.

Of course, pretend play can also result in conflict and differing opinions but learning to process feelings and manage them in a controlled way is an important developmental process. Pretend play also provides the opportunity for children to learn more about themselves; their likes, dislikes, interests and abilities.


Learning Resources All About Me – Family Counters


How can I encourage
pretend play experiences at home?

  • Reading stories at home is a great way to inspire imaginations and provide stimulus for pretend play
  • Expressing an interest in children’s play using open ended questions such as ‘can you tell me what you’re doing?’ encourages and supports imaginative scenarios spurring them to continue with their creativity
  • Providing props and materials that encourage imaginative play create a safe arena for children to enter fantasy worlds
  • Narrating daily activities exposes your child to new words and phrases and encourages them to look for the detail in activities


We recommend:

New Sprouts® Grow it! My Very Own Garden Set

Jumbo Mommas and Babies Farm Animals

Pretend & Play® School Set


Browse the full range here: