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Often when we are told "children should play more" we think of physical play, such as children taking part in games of tag, playing with a ball, using a playground and physically exploring. But physical play is not the only kind of play.
Pretend play is also a very important part a child’s cognitive and social development. Pretend play (or make-believe play) can involve the acting out of stories which involve multiple perspectives and the playful manipulation of ideas and emotions.
Researchers have identified imaginative play as a vital component of the normal development of a child. Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the age of about two and a half through to the age of seven. Studies have demonstrated benefits such as increases in language usage including subjunctives, future tenses, and adjectives.
A basic training for imagination is listening to storeytelling resulting in the child forming new images and sensations in their mind rather than directly experienced through the senses (hearing, touch etc).
"imagination .... is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world", Albert Einstein.
Imaginative play can be stimulated and supported by simple tactile toys, such as some blocks, a toy car, a figure or some farm animals. Toys that do not restrict the options for play to some predetermined path are best. Toys that can support the imagination.