Friday, 2 November 2012

Child Development and Imaginative Play

Do you remember when you played for hours with a simple toy, a much loved doll or train set? Or when you played at dressing up and acted out imaginative scenarios alone or with a friend. Did you have an imaginative friend who shared all your games?

It is a sad fact that children’s imaginative play and creative play is being limited and squeezed out by modern life. Parents are still anxious to do their best for their child and there are many pressures on parents, both as parents and in their own busy lives. There is enormous pressure to achieve and succeed and that pressure starts when very young, often unwittingly.

There have been several alarming studies on how a child’s development is affected by the lack of imaginative play, and especially free imaginative play. That is the kind of play time so readily available in past years. When you weren't driven off to yet another after school class or activity, or just sat in front of a television or played with a computer game. Playing with computer games is not free imaginative play – you are playing with someone else’s imagination.

Studies show how the attention span of young children is becoming shorter, their attention more difficult to hold, their communication skills are becoming limited and their social interaction poor.  That is so sad. We are a species with an enormous need to communicate and interact with one another, communication has never been so easy, and yet we are losing the ability to do so easily and naturally face to face. Just watch the people around you, especially the youngsters and you will see what I mean.

The rise and rise of the computer, especially the smart phone means that babies see the parent using one frequently – in fact the  mobile phone is the easiest thing with which to multi task. It is addictive, it is enticing and it is affecting the brains of young children. Many children are showing the same signs of addiction to computer games, smart phones and television viewing. They become irritable, find it hard to sleep, awake at odd times and throw angry tantrums when denied.

Parents who have braved the storms for an experiment and removed the computer, computer consoles and TV from their children are amazed by the results. Braving the angry outbursts, which can last several days and the complaints that the child is bored, the child soon begins to find ways of amusing themselves and soon return to being a happier, more contented child. Because they are more active they sleep better, and because their brains have been used creatively they are less stressed.

Free imaginative play is vital. Children who develop their imagination make creative thinkers and creative problem solvers in later life. They are able to understand and empathise and communicate with others which enables better relationships and friendships.

So, mums and dads let your children play and interact with one another and with you. It’s easy, there is no pressure to succeed, no exams to pass, no boxes to tick. Just enjoy one another after all soon they will be grown up and that magical phase of childhood will have passed, Forgetting the pressures and worries of your own day and entering a world of imagination and play, or just letting the children play by themselves, will reduce your own stress levels too.

The founder of Fairy Tale Children's Furniture, Zandra Johnson is a passionate advocate of imaginative play for children. Studies reveal free time spent playing make-believe helps children develop critical cognitive skills. Fairytale Furniture helps build those skills through imaginative play. Download your free guide to Imaginative Play at FAIRYTALECHILDRENSFURNITURE.CO.UK