How Important is Imaginative Play?

Let’s escape all this.

What’s better than sitting down to a good movie or reading a book? Escaping into another world and forgetting all your concerns. We just sink into it and enjoy it and don’t think about what we’re learning. This is similar to children engaged in imaginative play. They are so absorbed that nothing else matters and they’re not aware of the complex learning that’s going on. When we first moved to Australia our eldest was three. Without siblings, other than a baby sister, her ability to lose herself in her own imaginative games was fascinating to me. I remember getting the video camera out one day to send a video to my parents of our new home. Wandering through the rooms, I was trying to find the source of a tiny chattering voice. Opening the door to her room I said ‘Hi sweetie, who are you talking to?’. ‘I am talking to my kids!’ she piped back, as if to tell me I was disturbing some very important business. All her toys were seated before her whilst she read to them.

Dinosaurs, dragons, fairies and princesses.

I went on a little search for photos to illustrate how much imaginative play went on when the kids were little. Obviously there were endless examples. Often the play was facilitated through costumes and toys, but mud, sand, bath water or a big cardboard box could be enough to inspire.

It doesn’t have to stop.

When our eldest started school she went from the endless imaginative play of kindergarten straight into a multi-age class where the first year children were expected to sit down and line up with children two years older. Six weeks in, she announced that she had had enough. She wasn’t happy that she had to do as she was told all the time, at the right time, and she couldn’t choose to play or paint a picture if she wanted to. The Scandinavian system of sending children to school after the age of 7 makes perfect sense to me now. In Australia it seems ridiculous that we confine children to indoors to learn. All they do is yearn to get out.

Learning together

There’s an utterly delightful program here in Australia called Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. It highlights the wealth of learning and life-enrichment that can come from mixing generations and giving them a shared task. These shared experiences are exactly what I hope my Sew Together Dolls will help to facilitate. We were really lucky that my parents followed us to Australia and were here for 7 years of our children’s young lives before they had to go back to the UK. I’ll always be grateful to them for it. Dad took them swimming and canoeing and Mum loved a high tea and cooked with them. Dad also built a cubby house in our garden. A glorious contribution to endless long sunny days of playing. This week marks two years since Dad died of early onset dementia. The cubby house now houses our chickens so I go and visit it daily to collect eggs. My parents really knew how to keep playing and join in with the kids, especially with imaginative play.

Published by Karen Erasmus

I am an illustrator and surface pattern designer. I have illustrated 18 picture books. I live in Melbourne, Australia with three kids, two dogs, four chickens and a mad husband. Life's busy. I also love to sew and cycle and visit galleries whenever I get the time.