Developing Imaginative and Creative Play Opportunities

Imaginative and creative play is a natural way for children to learn about the world and involves the whole body. Children express themselves through play both verbally and non-verbally. They actively use their large and small muscles and their senses to explore resources and their environment. This supports healthy growth and development of the physical body and develops neurological connections in their brains.

Here are some ideas on how to set up imaginative and creative play activities for  children to engage in play and perhaps reduce the time using screens to encourage healthy development:

Children playing

Imaginative role play and creative ideas:

Outer Space: Children can dress up as astronauts and aliens. They can create a spaceship and set up different space stations and learn about the planets in the solar system.  You can help them to set up various missions to explore new worlds, planets and to defend the earth from aliens.

Doctor’s Office, Hospital or Veterinary Clinic: Children can be introduced to a first aid kit and learn about the role of different medical professionals such as a doctor, nurse, surgeon and vet. Help them to set up a GP surgery, Hospital or Vet Clinic with a play medical kit for attending to ‘patients’ (i.e. other children, dolls or soft toys). They can make an ambulance to drive patients home safely; learn about writing prescriptions and making appointments using paper and forms. They can make an x-ray machine and draw the x-rays.

Restaurant: Providing children with a familiar home environment or a restaurant layout, encourages them to learn about families, mealtimes, daily routines and taking on different roles such as mum, dad and baby. Offer play food, plates, utensils and empty food containers and boxes. Children can make a cooker, hob, fridge or sink, otherwise these can be bought.

They will learn to set the table, prepare a meal and tidy up. Encourage them to make a menu, take orders and write out the bill for customers in a restaurant. They will learn about money and roles of people in a restaurant such as chef, customer, waiter and waitress.

Drawing/Craft Activities: Determine where your art area will be and organise a range of art materials for children to access. Felt pens and crayons, glue, scissors, tape, ribbons, feathers, felt etc all in different containers. Children can choose from different size paper and colours to make cards, posters, collages and create models that they can tell you about.

Messy Play: Give children a range of resources in an area of the home or setting for messy play. Include water, paint, boxes, card, brushes, clay, foam, pasta, water and sand for children to explore the properties of the materials and to enjoy the process rather than coming up with an end product.

Painting and Playdough: These are essential for developing creativity and imagination, using a range of colours, paper and brush sizes for children to create pictures, models and learn to express their emotions through drawing, painting and making their own creations.

Constructions Toys and Small World Toys are also beneficial to this area of development, for example:

  • Farm animals, dinosaurs, reptiles, insects, fish, sea creatures, birds.
  • Transport including cars, trucks, motorcycles, construction vehicles, fire trucks, ambulance, police cars, trains, aeroplanes, boats.
  • Wooden or plastic building blocks such as duplo, lego and 3D shapes.
  • Toolboxes, telephones, laptops, calculators, books, pencils, superhero costumes, shields, swords, masks, soft toys, dressing up clothes and items that children can either fix or use for role play.

Creative and imaginative play is essential for children’s development as they gain confidence in exploring materials, understanding about expressive arts and design within a fun and supportive learning environment. Children can engage in imaginative and creative play by themselves or with others. Imaginary play is beneficial as children use their imaginations to create pretend and make-believe scenarios. The role of the adult is to support them to express their emotions within a safe and healthy environment.

Remember that adults need to allow children time to engage in imaginative and creative play without interrupting them, remembering the importance of supervising appropriately for their age and stage of development.

Written By Yasmin Mukadam

Did you enjoy reading this blog? If you want to learn more about neuroscience, focusing on the early years from birth to 7 years old, then take a look at our NCFE Cache Level 2 award – Introduction to Neuroscience in Early Years.