It might be hard to believe that searching under the bed for blue monsters with round yellow eyes could be a good thing - but it is. That’s because imagination-even when its working overtime, is critical to your child’s development. Here are the reasons discussed by Helene Goldnadel why:
1) Imagination helps children make the connection between their behavior and consequences. Everything we do has a consequence. Consequences, however, are not necessarily negative; they simply mean that when you do one thing, something else happens.
As a baby your child learned that when they cried, you came. They also learned that when they shook a rattle, it made a noise, or when they kicked their feet, their body moved. As children get older, they can use their imagination to picture their behavior, and to imagine the response that takes place. That allows them to experiment with things in their mind without actually having to carry out the act.
Instead of grabbing her favorite toy from her little sister’s hands, your child can now anticipate that a crying sister means an unhappy mom. Translation: I’d better find a different way of getting my toy back.
2) Pretend play gives your child a closer look at the complexities of human nature. Small children tend to see people as either good or bad. They have a hard time understanding that people can be a mix of motives, emotions, and behavior that sometimes conflict.
As children pretend to be superheroes, or just the cashier at the local grocery store, they learn that there are numerous reasons for why someone might act as they do. As they pretend to be “bad guys,” they might decide that they can rob a bank, but might stop to help a crying child cross the street.
3) The ability to picture things in his mind is the beginning of abstract thinking. When your child brandishes a stick and calls it a sword, it shows he can use one object to represent another. That means he will be able to conceptualize something that isn’t right in front of him. He’s no longer limited to the here and now. He is now the shaper of his future.
4) Pretending lets children have in fantasy what they can’t have in reality. We can’t always have what we want, nor is it always best to. Your child can enjoy the fun of sleeping out in the wilds of Africa, going to the ball in a pumpkin coach, or experience what it’s like having a friend who knows exactly what you like.
5) Play can help your child express his feelings safely. Most parents know that children’s emotions show up in their play. You don’t, however, need to be a play therapist in order for your child to benefit from expressing her feelings through play. Ever put a child in time-out, only to see your child putting their beloved bear in time-out also?
6) Imagination can expand a child’s vocabulary. As children wrestle with a world far from their own, they’ll encounter a host of things that have yet to name. Whether they ask a parent, a friend, or a teacher, they’ll start to develop a vocabulary of experiences that are far from the mundane bustle of the everyday.