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It’s been said that “logic will get you from A to B, while imagination will take you everywhere”. Children’s irrepressible passion for play may be the purest example of how imagination can open up a world of possibilities. Play can take many forms, but imaginative play is where the magic really happens! Whether your child is playing the part of a pirate navigating the seven seas, a prince or princess presiding over their castle, or a veterinarian healing their four-legged friend, this ‘make believe’ play helps kids safely experiment with real-world scenarios, gain perspective through role modelling and learn to interact with their environment.
Remember that just because kids embrace make believe play, it doesn’t mean it will happen automatically or that they don’t need a helping hand to make it come alive. Parents have a big role to play in nurturing an imaginative spirit, which is where Pink Poppy comes in! Since their humble beginnings in Sydney 30 years ago, Pink Poppy’s mission has been to inspire children across the globe to take part in imaginative play and to keep the innocence and fun of being young, through a wide range of beautiful, quality, and Australian-designed products. Here, they share 6 tips for encouraging your child’s imaginative play.
Provide props to set the scene
Kids can find inspiration in the simplest of things. From your own childhood, you may recall being captivated by the jumbo cardboard box from any large appliance that became a makeshift cubby house or intergalactic battleship. Letting kids exercise such ingenuity with items they find around the house is all well and good, but providing purposeful props will also help enrich their play experience. Pay attention to the stories your child most commonly acts out and see where they may be missing some detail – perhaps your avid little explorer needs a functioning torch to explore those dark catacombs or parchment paper to draw a map where x ‘marks the spot’. If your kids already have a toy chest, consider adding completely new items on a regular basis to mix things up and pique their curiosity for new stories, such as a toy stethoscope or tiara. Dedicated props to play out their fantasies will also mean they are less likely to seize communal items such as your dining room table, for their next elaborate fort!
Get involved and release your inner child
With kids at the helm of imaginative play, surely they don’t need your input to guide their play, right? Wrong! Jumping in as an occasional playmate for your little ones provides some amazing benefits. The golden rule for parents is to let your child lead the play and don’t interfere with their narrative. Your goal is to be a helper; giving them confidence and reassurance in their storymaking, and offering prompts and cues for when they get stuck.
When suggesting new elements, try to keep these ideas as open-ended as possible. Don’t control the outcome by saying “look, there’s a mouse”, but rather, give hints: “there’s something moving behind the bushes – what could it be?”. This style of questioning entices your child to determine what exactly this ‘thing’ is, as they learn to canvass the options to find something that fits. Their answer could be something expected like a bird, or something outlandish like a fiery dragon, which is a practical test of their lateral thinking and problem solving skills. Don’t worry if it gets a little wacky; they’re just testing the boundaries of reality! Likewise, take this opportunity to indulge in a little silliness so you can bond with one another, all while getting a parental insight into your child’s cognitive development.
Schedule time for unstructured play
Setting time aside for imaginative play is important; especially for early school-aged children who need to work around school hours and extracurricular activities, but also for preschoolers in balancing it with other learning-through-play activities. It’s especially relevant in a technology saturated world where devices tend to do the thinking for us, and increased ‘screen time’ may diminish the chances for kids to draw upon their own faculties and create situations and characters entirely of their own making. If you haven’t already, you might like to organise a ‘no-screen time’ hour each day, where kids must entertain themselves. Believe it or not, there is power in boredom! Set up a dedicated space in your house and fill it with props to encourage kids to think creatively, without the temptation of reaching for a hand-held device.
Play ‘dress-ups’ to encourage role-modelling
The humble art of ‘dress-ups’ reigns supreme for imaginative play, and no technology or device can match embodied play that is so tactile and social in nature. Incorporating clothing as part of kids’ role-modelling gives them important visual cues and teaches them about ‘symbolism’, as they learn about new sets of behaviours, skills and emotions. When communicating in costume with others, kids also learn social norms, expectations and responsibilities. While adding accuracy and legitimacy to a child’s storymaking, costumes are also empowering tools for play in that they make children feel more capable and boost self-esteem as they tackle scenarios bigger than themselves. This is equally true for when they’re wearing a superhero cape to save their stuffed toy town from the clutches of a villanus enemy, pulling on scrubs and a toy stethoscope to fix a boo-boo on Mr. Bear, or donning a tutu and tiara to perform at a recital.
Fill their dress-ups chest with familiar and unique clothes to see what takes their fancy, and if you notice that they’re fascinated by a particular persona, give them related articles of clothing and accessories so they can play out that role creatively yet safely. If you’re wanting to help your child explore the realm of fantasy without having to search high and low, look no further than Pink Poppy for a wide range of authentic costumes and accessories for both girls and boys.
Use favorite characters as inspiration
Imaginative play doesn’t always need to be centred on an entirely new premise, and kids should also be encouraged to piggyback off their favourite book, television or movie characters as a basis for creating new adventures. Using a familiar face may be particularly helpful if you find that your child is struggling to devise new characters for their imaginative play. In this way, they can become the narrator of the story and enact situations that stay true to the character. Fictional characters – whether from books or the screen – also provide role model figures when they are not readily available or the outside world is not accessible, as is the case with recent global events. A great idea to spark their imagination when it wanes, is to select one of their favourite characters and ask them to think up a brand new scene in which they could assign roles to the whole family.
Need some authentic props and costumes to get into the swing of things? Pink Poppy has a gorgeous range of outfits and accessories from licensed brands including Disney Frozen 2, Disney Princess, Disney Pixar’s Toy Story and more, plus a Barbie and Polly Pocket range that is being released just in time for Christmas.
Organise new experiences and outings
The beauty of imaginative play is that it can be borne from very little, but kids still need regular exposure to new experiences and ideas to infuse into their play. With social isolation thrust upon families during the global pandemic along with a shrinking sense of possibility and freedom, opportunities for imaginative play are more important than ever before in giving children an outlet for their curiosity and creativity.
As your family ventres back out into the world post-lockdown, it’s crucial to reignite that sense of awe and wonderment in meaningful ways for your children. For instance, a trip to the beach can yield plenty of stories kids can bookmark for later play. Be sure to pick up mementos to bring home with you such as shells, and watch your child construct their own blend of reality or fantasy around them, such as mimicking the lifeguard they saw protecting beachgoers, or imagining themselves as a mermaid in a secret underwater world. Pink Poppy’s costumes (including their shimmering mermaid outfit and tail) and lifestyle items, are an ideal way to bridge this gap between the home and outside world for your kids.
The Pink Poppy brand is treasured by children the world over. Synonymous with make-believe dreams and magical memories, they aim to enchant their Pink Poppy “children” at every step of the way! Uniquely and carefully created visions of princesses, mermaids and fairies are just a few of their signature themes, reflected in a quality range of products including: dress ups/costumes, hair accessories, tiaras, jewelry and jewelry boxes, purses and bags, tea sets, novelty toys and games, room decor, wands, tiaras and much more. To view the entire range, check out their website.
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