Hello and welcome to our March newsletter as we welcome autumn! What a beautiful time of year autumn is. Warm, sunny days with a welcome touch of cool beginning to creep into the mornings and evenings. So much possibility for our educational programs with the changing of the seasons. This month, our feature article is exploring a truly magical topic in the early years - imaginative play. One of the absolute gems of childhood - remembered fondly by many into old age. Whether it was cowboys and indians or cops and robbers, most of us remember whiling away hours with our friends or siblings, but many adults are unaware of the plethora of benefits that stem from this style of play. It really is a treasure chest of positives. Read on to learn more.
The wonderful world of imaginative play
Imaginative play, dramatic play, playing make-believe or pretend… while there are many names for this style of play, it’s universal. Across the world, no matter what the language, the culture, or the socio-economic background, children adopt this style of play everyday. Why? Perhaps they’ve witnessed older brothers or sisters playing this way. Maybe they’ve played imaginatively with their peers in care. Or perhaps it just stems from within themselves. Either way, it’s a form of play that comes naturally, can be guided but not taught, and often requires little or nothing to participate, so easily overcomes most barriers.
Mummies and babies, puss-cats and puppies, builders fixing things with their tools, families cooking, baking, vacuuming and cleaning… just some of the limited amount of imaginative games children enjoy playing. The land of make believe is a child’s chance to get lost in play. Be completely absorbed. The opportunity for a child to role-play the experiences that interest them. Things like being a ‘doctor’, wrapping teddy up in bandages or lovingly caring for dolly when she’s feeling unwell.
Children may engage in imaginative play alone or with others. It has the ability to bond friendships, build self-confidence, teach a child to express their ideas, thoughts and feelings, and experience the true magic of childhood. Creating powerful memories that, for those of us lucky enough, can be carried throughout adulthood and reminisced over fondly for the rest of our lives.
Types of imaginative play
Imaginative play is broken into two main types.
Structured imaginative play is where children are given a little guidance. Whether that includes a selection of props to promote a framework for creativity, or a full, ready-to-play set-up - like a grocery store complete with a cash register, groceries and a shopping basket. A solid starting point to encourage the imagination.
Pure imagination. Children driving the play on their own, imagining that a tree is their home, or a rock is their pet. Whether they’re playing individually or with others, unstructured play is all about the child creating their own world with little or no input from parents or carers.
The many benefits associated with imaginative play
Children play “pretend” very simply, because it’s fun. It’s their way of exploring and discovering their world. Often there aren’t rigid rules. The game can be flexible, ebbing and flowing as the child wills it. But were you aware that imaginative play is also an important part of a child’s development which should be encouraged? A process that builds skills across essential areas? There are many benefits, some of which include -
Imaginative play fosters creativity by providing a space for children to safely act out anything they choose, including scenarios they may not be able to experience in real life. For example, a five year old who is unable to drive a car, can drive himself wherever he wishes. In fact, through imaginative play the car may turn into an aeroplane or even a spaceship! The spaceship may be a cardboard box or it may be an upside down chair. The creative possibilities are limitless, dependent only on the child’s imagination.
Promoting physical development
Imaginative play promotes physical development in an enjoyable way. Everyday tasks that pop-up in the midst of play, such as gripping and operating a toy hammer, which offers the chance to hone a child’s fine motor skills and strengthen their wrists, while dressing their teddy bear in a coat is great for hand-eye coordination.
Developing language skills
Playing with other children provides the perfect opportunity for children to practice and develop their language. Whether the narrative is being firmly directed by an older child or is equal amongst children of similar ages, talk naturally occurs during play. From learning new vocabulary, articulating what they want and learning to express themselves, to holding their own in a dialogue, their language is continually developing.
Boosting social skills
Whether playing with peers at daycare, strangers at the park, or siblings at home, imaginative play offers the chance for children to boost their social skills through playing with other children. Grasping concepts such as turn-taking and sharing, playing cooperatively, negotiating and using manners.
Assisting with problem-solving
Imaginative play with peers often provides situations in which not every child gets the result they want. Learning to advocate for themselves at certain times is a great life lesson for children, as is knowing when to step back and allow another child to take the lead. Working together to find a solution that suits everyone is a great skill to learn and if a compromise cannot be made it may, disappointingly, mean the end of the game.
Controlling big emotions and finessing self-regulation skills
When more than one child wants to be the “daddy” in the game, the child who doesn’t get what they want must learn to manage difficult emotions and self-regulate for play to continue on. Dealing with disappointment, hurt and anger can be a big concept for a young child, but play often mirrors life, so experiencing emotions like this during imaginative play can teach a child about appropriate reactions and depending on the child’s age, illustrate a basic understanding of consequences.
Aiding in the teaching of positive behaviour
Offering parents and carers a fun way to model positive behaviour for their children by introducing situations where learning opportunities can occur. For example, if two children wish to place their baby doll into the same cot during play and cannot come to an agreement, you might suggest that one of them instead puts their baby into the pram. You may recommend they take turns, so while one child uses the cot the other feeds their baby in the high chair. You could even model the appropriate manners and language to be used in this situation, “thank you for sharing the cot. You can use the cot next”. Providing a child with guidance to work through tricky situations.
Is there a “right” age for imaginative play?
There’s no set age to introduce imaginative play into a child’s world. Start by introducing simple items to encourage play, like a stuffed toy. Create situations to engage them - like having your child’s toy give them a snuggly cuddle and mime the toy asking “do you like snuggles”?
Are there disadvantages?
There are absolutely no disadvantages to your child playing imaginatively. Just keep in mind that a good play mix is a balanced one - ensure your child also has the opportunity for social interactions with peers as well as time for their imagination!
Nurture your child’s imagination
If you’d like to provide a little guidance to get imaginative juices flowing there are easy ways to set the creative scene.
Props for play
Consider creating a prop box, basket or corner filled with a wide variety of objects to spark your child’s fantasy world. From here, they can take their play anywhere they wish.
Items to include -
-Plastic crates, cardboard boxes or cylinders -A selection of old clothes, shoes, backpacks, hats, handbags, and scarves -Old telephones, phone books, magazines -Cooking utensils, dishes, plastic food containers, table napkins, cutlery, vases & artificial flowers -Animals and dolls of various sizes -Fabric pieces, blankets, or old sheets for making forts, cubby houses or even costumes -Themed materials like postcards, photos, used plane or concert tickets, foreign coins -Writing materials for taking phone messages, leaving notes, and making shopping lists -Don’t overlook purchased dress-ups. There’s an enormous range on the market, and a place in the lives of many children for superheroes and princesses!
Imaginative set-ups for play
More detailed set-ups can help guide younger children or those that take a little encouragement to get involved in dramatic play. They can also be incredibly fun to set-up, are fantastic for rainy days, and can easily be set and left for a few days, for your child to come and go as they wish.
Dramatic play theme ideas -
Hospital - White doctor’s coat, rubber gloves, bandages, baby dolls for patients, cot or pillows for sick beds, old medicine syringes, plasters (bandaids), selection of small plastic bottles for medicine or pills (source from your recycling or buy some travel bottles from your local chemist), toy doctor’s kit items like a stethoscope or thermometer. Craft opportunity: paper plate nurses hat - paper plates, felt, sequins, glue gun, string to attach hat to your child’s head. **alternatively, use paint to replace all items except the paper plate & string.
Camping - Selection of sticks to create a campfire (red & orange cellophane makes great fire), kitchen items like fry pans, pots and tongs for camp cooking, blankets & pillows (or sleeping bags if you have any), teepee or tent (alternatively, string a blanket up to make a shelter, picnic blanket
Craft opportunity: foil painted campfire- aluminium foil, paint in yellow, red and orange colours, blank paper. Super easy with a wow factor!
Vet clinic - Toy animals for patients, bandages for wounds or slings, spaces to indicate sick beds, blankets and wraps, cardboard boxes to make a front counter or vet’s stretcher bed Craft opportunity: tissue paper collage- large sheet of butcher’s paper, glue, permanent market to sketch a large cat, dog or rabbit head on the paper, tissue paper in multiple colours cut into small squares, paint or crayons to colour your pets eyes. **alternatively, use crepe paper balls as a great fine motor exercise! Tear the crepe paper into strips then roll into small balls with your child, gluing them onto the paper to decorate your pet.
Supermarket - Cash register (if you don’t own one, try making it out of a shoebox and permanent marker), selection of fruit & vegies (wooden, plastic or real), selection of packaging collected from your recycling, paper money, shopping basket or trolley, an old purse or bag for the shopper to store their money in. Craft opportunity: paper money - you don’t need to buy fake money, make it with your child! It only needs to be simple. You’ll need blank paper or card, use scissors to cut into small rectangles, colour with some crayons, or coloured pencils. Use a permanent marker to note the dollar value on the money.
Cafe - Sheet of paper and markers (or blackboard and chalk) to write up the daily specials, cash register, paper money, table and chairs, table cloth, apron, wooden or plastic food items like bread, eggs, cakes, etc. Craft opportunity: giant cardboard cupcakes - recycled cardboard from empty boxes, scissors, coloured oil pastels, glue, sequins or glitter.
Encouragement is key
Cast your mind back to the happiest moments of your childhood. The games played, the friendships made, the biggest laughs… all the best parts. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if somewhere there, you were remembering being a shopkeeper with your bestie, making a fort in the back garden with your siblings, or creating the biggest, most incredible mudpies with your classmates to sell in your bakery. Imagination is certainly a tool to be tapped into, bringing nothing but positivity and joy to the lives of children everywhere! So make sure you’re doing all you can to encourage your child to tap into it! There’s a Tarzan or mermaid in all of us!
0-12 month development
Stunning images show baby brain development
Author: Suzi Catchpole
A British research team have been mapping the development of babies’ brain growth, using MRI scans to illuminate what the BBC is aptly calling the "mother of all wiring diagrams".
The study, which is being carried out on adults and children, aims to understand what healthy brain development looks like, maps every stage of the brain’s development.
Firstly, researches will identify brain development growth patterns. Thereafter they will continue to gather data from the babies as they move through life to gain insight on whether the growth patterns contribute to particular life factors later on.
During the first year of parenthood, few expect to enjoy the privilege of sleeping through the night. With a new baby, at least one of you is bound to be needed.
However, many are surprised when this continues well into their child’s second year. In reality, this is rather common and is nothing to worry about. Sleep disturbance in a child’s second year is caused by several factors.
Incredible progression in a child’s language and mobility skills are common in the second year. They challenge and stimulate a baby’s brain, sometimes making it difficult to sleep.
Simply teaching your child what real friendship should feel
Author: Beth Ann Mayer
Although your friends are important throughout a person’s life, they are at their most important and influential during childhood. During childhood, a person's friends can drastically affect the person they want to be and the identity they aim to carve out for themselves.
This makes it important to proactively teach children about healthy friendship and help them navigate relationships.
To start, emphasise sharing as a core friendship concept. After that, focus on teaching your child how to be a good friend, using the right resources and knowing when to step in.
Read on to understand how to teach children about true friendship.
3-4 year development
How to react when your child tells a lie
Author: Meghan Leahy
Is your three-year-old learning how to lie? Is he/she starting to tell little white lies? This is completely normal, but how should you respond to discourage this behaviour.
It is not necessary to punish lying right off the bat as your child is just experimenting. However, you should start talking about the importance of telling the truth and encourage truthful and honest behaviour.
Compared to punishment, this approach requires greater effort on your behalf, however, it is what your child needs. At this age, he/she would benefit from support rather than discipline.
Read on here for an in-depth look at how to encourage honesty.
4-5 year development
Is there a solution? Mum worried her kids are turning her into a 'nag'
Author: Naomi White.
Parents must teach their kids about daily duties, ultimately preparing them to love independently. However, with some childrens’ memories reflecting that of a goldfish, parents are often forced to repeatedly remind and motivate their children to fulfil simple daily tasks.
"I've tried the logical conversations, which go in one ear and out the other, and we're right back at asking 14 times a day. We don't ask them to do a lot—a few simple household chores and basic personal upkeep—but it feels like every single ask turns into a several-day campaign of nagging."
Although there is no magic solution, it is suggested that parents narrow their focus, working on one task or habit at a time. Only once you have successfully trained a child to consistently perform a task, such as putting his/her dirty clothes in the washing basket can move onto the next habit.
With endless ways to be creative with paper, paper crafting is a ton of fun! Making stickers is a simple introduction to the art of paper crafting. Simply download print and cut the stickers before using glue to place them.
Create beautiful, flowing patterns using string dipped in paint. This is most suited to older children as it is a fairly complex and messy craft, requiring coordination and a decent attention span. Most importantly remember not to water down your watercolour paint too much and add more paint if your artwork is too light.
Bring the beach into your home with this summer craft. Although it looks intricate, this paper palm tree is fairly easy to assemble and uses common household items. All you need is a paper towel roll, the front or back panel of a cereal box or pasta box, glue, a pencil and some construction paper.
With a few simple supplies, you can make a variety of instruments at home. Make some beats with a paper plate and bead drum, make a humming melody with a Popsicle stick kazoo or just enjoy using your maracas and rain sticks to make a noise. Be aware that undertaking this craft is saying goodbye to any hope of peace and quiet.