Disclosure: This conversation is sponsored by Mattel. Regardless, all opinions and experiences are our own.
There was this one time I sat down and had a conversation with one of my daughters about imaginative play. Jaci was around 7 years old and had the most amazing imagination. I explained to her how much I enjoy watching her play and how I simply did not have that same ability. My childhood consisted of lots of books and a jump rope. I never fully grasped the world of imaginative play. It made Jaci incredibly sad to hear this, but I assured her that I have since learned, with her help, why imaginative play is important.
In fact, parenting has taught me a lot about the world and everything in it. But, perhaps most importantly, I now fully understand why imaginative play is important. Especially when raising five children and wanting to see them succeed in all they do and want to become. Various types of dramatic play help children in different ways based on their own needs and skills. It allows them to pretend to be someone else, to act out an array of situations, and to simply travel to an imaginary world. Plus, pretend play truly provides incredible benefits to the children.
When our now 11 year old was 7 and going through an extremely tough medical situation, she attended daily play therapy sessions. The main focus of her time with the therapist was based on learning self-control. Through various imaginative play methods, she was able to work through various situations in order to develop the skills and actions necessary to overcome them. Being able to “pretend” to be on both sides of a situation allows them to learn how to better handle it in real-life scenarios. Not to mention, it teaches empathy, cooperation and the art of compromise.
Speaking of compromise, imaginative play often includes multiple children. For example, our girls sit and talk about who will play with each Ever After High Way Too Wonderland doll. Lizzie Hearts, Madeline Hatter, Apple White and Kitty Chesire are each dressed in bold neons with a splash of beautiful pastels and created for imaginative play. The girls can easily choose one or two to portray during their playtime and work together to create a fun story about falling down the rabbit hole. As Kitty Chesire watches over the others, negotiations and decisions are made with the other dolls as to how the story will transpire. Teamwork, cooperation, and even cognitive thinking skills all come into play as the scene plays out.
Of course, when there is a group of people gathered, there are sure to be problems that arise. Yet, again, through dramatic play, children have to find solutions in order to continue to the fun parts. Sure, they may not always be able to maneuver through the situations without a little parental involvement, but they are learning. Facing the problems during a playtime circumstance allows children to be better prepared for real-life problems. The process of working through problems and finding solutions that work for everyone becomes more habitual.
Let’s face it, sometimes kids just need to have fun for the sake of fun. As adults, we often find a break from reality in a book, movie, TV show, or other outlet. Children can release stress through the life of whoever it is they want to pretend to be. As Jaci becomes Lizzie Hearts or Apple White in the Way Too Wonderland world, she can escape the toils of math problems or sibling rivalry. There is no soccer practice to attend, paper to write, or sister to pull her away for a project. She can just lay on the floor with her Ever After High dolls and venture off down the rabbit hole with them. And sometimes, this is exactly what a child needs. The ability to just be a kid. To have fun simply because that is what kids need to do.
I have learned through watching my children play over the years that imagination is key. You can discover what someone else might feel in a situation, believe you can do anything, and learn to be a better person through the act of play. It also develops self-control, social skills, and problem solving. Toys can encourage creative thinking and allows for creative self-expression as they grow and learn to navigate their way through life. Toys such as the Ever After High dolls, dollhouses, arts and crafts, building toys, stuffed animals, costumes and even musical instruments help support imaginative play.