Mindful Parenting: The Benefits of Imaginary Play
Molly Brett, Early Childhood Teacher at Kimberton Waldorf School, tells us why children need room for imaginative play.
The iconic images of childhood often produce nostalgia in adults: creating forts with blankets and chairs, designing a whole kingdom with blocks, long afternoons riding bikes around your neighborhood, and endless summer nights catching fireflies and roasting marshmallows while stars twinkle overhead.
These moments in play build the pathways for many future successes and create the foundations for creative and critical thinking. The ability to dream up a design to build a fort that won’t collapse and the challenges that come along with bringing it to life are what we as adults meet in our daily work lives. Remember the satisfaction of sitting in a home you built and the hours of play that came with it? The emotional resilience that play naturally fosters cannot be replicated elsewhere in learning.
Developmentally, children need play. Play causes the prefrontal cortex of the brain to become bigger and more efficient. The prefrontal cortex is the executive control center of the brain, and it’s from that center where we regulate emotions, make decisions, and problem solve. The brain is also strengthened by all the movement that play encourages and most importantly, the imagination is fortified and the child’s ability to dream big becomes a reality.
We can encourage young children’s play by making sure we leave time and space for it in our family’s lives. By not overscheduling and by being mindful to not interrupt our child while they play are important steps in promoting imaginative play. Playing outside, dressed for whatever the weather, also feeds the child and stimulates them differently than inside play.
Lastly, it’s important to turn off devices that distract because a simple “ting” of a notification coming through can interrupt the important work of play. These few simple suggestions not only support your child’s health but the well-being of your whole family by fostering conscious connection. Remembering play is the work of childhood is the best gift we can give our children.
Visit the Kimberton Waldorf School at an upcoming Open House:
Grades 1-8: May 7, 2019 at 8:30 am
PreK and Kindergarten: May 18, 2019
Photographs provided by Kimberton Waldorf School.