Have you ever heard the saying, ‘imaginations run wild’? Well, early years learning is all about that! Ideas and curiosity among children are what help them develop, and imaginative play should definitely be encouraged as early on as possible. In doing so, children can explore beyond their wildest imagination and without any physical constraints.
If imaginative play is a skill you truly want to expand in your school’s outdoor playground setting, here are our top examples of imaginative play products for children to get you started.
What Is Imaginative Play?
Imaginative play can include a range of activities and doesn’t necessarily need to include toys. It’s often easy to rely on and fall back on physical toys, as they can be brilliant at getting a reaction from children, however, imaginative play can do that too!
Children’s ability to expand on initial ideas will soon become the norm, and continue to play a crucial role in their imaginative learning. In other words, imaginative play is when children are role-playing and acting out various experiences they may have had or something that is of interest to them. They’re experimenting with decision-making on how to behave whilst practising their social skills.
The earlier children can get involved in imaginative play, the better as it can lead to increased confidence, and a desire to explore alone or with others whilst boosting their creativity. Fuelling their imagination doesn’t require much, just the right starting point and ongoing encouragement. Getting the most out of children’s imaginations can come from a range of outdoor playground equipment and play spaces, so the options are plenty.
A very important fact to know is that children learn from experience: from what happens around them, what they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, and for them to absorb those experiences and make sense of the world around them, they need to be engaged in imaginative play. If you want to find out more, you can read our blogs on Why Is Creative Play Important For Children’s Development and Why Is Free Play Important In The Early Years.
How Can Imaginative Play Be Encouraged?
When it comes to imaginative play, there is no right or wrong. It’s simply about having enough time to let children explore, whilst providing the encouragement they need to keep going with their evolving ideas. While some might think that extensive space is also a big factor in the benefits of imaginative play, it doesn’t need to be.
Plenty of imaginative play can take place in smaller settings as well because it’s more about making the most of the space you have. For example, you could start with a blank canvas such as our rustic stage or amphitheatre seating, where children of all ages can come together in small groups and share their imaginative ideas. Then, you can start the play with a simple task that requires them to perform and gain confidence in these drama-style outdoor classrooms.
If being adventurous is an approach that you think could really spark imaginative play in your students, check out our physical development equipment, complete with active and adventure units. A great way to run their very own obstacle course (Tough Mudder style), or by going on their very own trim trail, this range of outdoor playground equipment can be used to encourage healthy competition, organisation, and team-building skills.
Children can partner up in pairs or small teams to create challenges and use their imagination to extend beyond what they see in front of them. Not only will this stimulate their cognitive skills, but it also doubles up in working on physical abilities too.
Another one of our top imaginative play examples is music, as it always gets children excited!
Our popular Bongos Music Play Panel, Rustic Music Centre, and Flower Drum make plenty of noise for children to have their very own ‘jam session’. You can use these while belting out some classic nursery rhymes to encourage children to find the beat or task them with creating their very own song.
Skills Developed During Imaginative Play
The benefits of imaginative play in early years are endless! From role-play to communication, and some serious creativity, getting involved in imaginative play can do wonders to stimulate children in development.
A great way to get them started is by playing ‘house’. Check out our Woodland Activity House, where children can mimic the roles of their parents, siblings, and even their own home environment as they show off their adult side. Encouraging their imagination in a setting like this can really open up the fun things children like to do at home, and could also help them remember their daily routine through their imaginative communication.
This role play equipment unit can be a great way for children to show their emotions, as well as those towards others, a skill which is very important in the early years of learning and development.
For imaginative learning that requires problem-solving and perhaps some organisation, our Train is a fun way to creatively stimulate children in outdoor play spaces. They can take turns to board the train, work out how many children it can seat, and add in extra skills such as train arrival and departure times. It really doesn’t matter whether children have been on a train or not before, as this stimulating experience allows them to learn about a real-life experience.
How Can Red Monkey Play Help You?
Imaginative play boasts a whole range of developmental benefits from building confidence to communication, and creativity. If you’re looking to encourage imaginative play within your school or home, our team at Red Monkey Play is on hand to help with recommendations or advice!