Imagination and exploration through interaction with characters.
Children’s imagination is active from an early age. Imaginative play has links to what psychologists call ‘social pretend play’. Young children pretend or imagine that, for instance a wooden block is a cake and they carefully ‘cut’ it. A large proportion of pretend play tends to be social. Imaginative play begins when infants play and pretend with adults. As young children develop they begin to try to engage other children in social pretend play. Young children in nursery benefit from engaging in imaginative play. It helps them to begin to understand that other children think differently to them and have different ideas.
Children can engage in imaginative play with other children where they have agreed on a story or scenario that they want to act out. Young children playing with toys use their imagination to invent scenarios and play out the consequences. They can use characters to explore scenarios and act out scripts such as going shopping or bedtime. Imaginative and social pretend play is beneficial for children as it allows them to explore different ways of viewing the world. Children who use their imagination when playing with other children are increasing their social competence and their understanding of other people. In a study where we observed children playing in a nursery we found that young children engaged in imaginative play, often using the toys in unexpected ways. Children’s imagination benefits from the opportunity to play with all types of toys.