Everyone has an imagination, but we all use it to varying degrees and in different ways. For some, imagination consists of building worlds of fantasy and make believe. For others it may be solving a problem when designing an invention. Imagination is a key aspect of development. It helps children to strengthen their minds and adapt to the wider world. It isn’t limited to the creative areas of your setting and shouldn’t be seen as something extra to be taught, but as something which can be embedded into all areas of learning. When we think about imagination, we often associate it with role play, but it goes beyond this. It is thinking about inventions, finding creative ways to tackle a problem, or conjuring up the plot of your next story.
Why is imagination important?
Imagination is important as it develops many key skills that support children in their futures. Here are just a few examples:
- Taking on different character roles helps to develop empathy and understanding for others.
- Children can explore and experiment with different ideas which helps to build their self-esteem and resilience.
- Encourages creative problem-solving skills such as selecting materials for a particular purpose or acting out difficult situations and exploring different solutions.
- Children can communicate or express their thoughts and feelings in a safe space whilst developing important language skills needed in life.
How can I support imaginative play?
There are many different ways in which we can embed imaginative play into our settings. Children’s imaginations may be nurtured using one resource or many. Providing a range of open-ended resources allows children to select according to their interests and level of development. Whilst some children may spot a simple object such as a pebble, and see it’s potential for being an alien spacecraft or giant coin, others will need sensitively directed support and scaffolding from a practitioner.
Here are a few activity ideas that can be used to support imagination in your setting:
Inspiring Imagination with Metallics
Create scenarios and build scenes: Incorporate the metallics into small world activities. Follow the children’s interests and see where they lead. Children may build castles, magical landscapes, rockets or houses. They may use the metallics to represent something else such as a hoard of treasure buried by pirates or as food in a world class restaurant.
Weaving stories into play: Children may invent stories and characters to enhance their creations and inventions, breathing life and purpose into the resources. This could follow the theme of a well-known story that has been shared many times or transform into a story from their own imagination.
Inspiring Imagination with Messy Play
Creating Concoctions: Set up a laboratory where mini scientists blend, mix, whisk and stir their concoctions. What are the potions called and what do they do? Children may want to practice their mark making skills by labelling them with imaginative names or drawing symbols or pictures to show what type of potions the bottles hold.
Making magical landscapes: Use the magical ingredient jars to create imaginary worlds. Make a snow scene by scooping pretend snow into the jar, ready for some Arctic animals or an enchanted woodland with moss, bark, a magical tiny door and a few elves or fairies.
Inspiring Imagination with Construction
Build a story: Bring books to life by designing and building story sets using various types of bricks. Create designs for particular characters e.g., a wolf-proof house for the Three Little Pigs, a home for Elmer or a rocket for baby bear. Once the story set has been built, children can take on the roles of different characters and perform them. They may even wish to make tickets and put on a spectacular performance for others.
Role-Play: Encourage children to take on different roles in their play. Will they become the building inspector, designer, architect, carpenter, plumber, inventor or budding engineer? Will they be using their imaginations to mix cement, design and plan a structure or to solve a problem that has arisen?
Inspiring Imagination with Pebbles
Making discoveries: Hide the pebbles for the children to discover. What will they be? An enchanted egg? What creature will emerge? An alien, a fire-breathing dragon or another imaginary creature. Take the children on magical adventures where they can imagine, explore, dream and wonder.
Art activities: Bring creative and imaginative ideas into the real world through art. A set of colourful pebbles could be part of transient art activities. Children may construct their artistic creations in various locations, experimenting with different canvases e.g., on the ground, mirrored surfaces, on tables, in trays or frames.
These activities have all been taken from the practitioner cards found in the TTS WOW Packs.