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3 - 5yrs Clinic

Growing up

Encouraging your child's imagination

Role play can help toddlers understand the world around them.  This is particularly useful if you have to make a doctor's visit where the toddler will feel unsure with strangers. It also helps toddlers to understand other's feelings and can introduce a whole range of vocabulary that you wouldn't normally use in everyday instructions.

Tips for encouraging imagination

•  Let's pretend

Play ‘let’s pretend’.  Improvise or buy some dressing up clothes and play ‘going to the shops’ with tins and boxes from your kitchen, or create a jungle in the garden with cuddly lions and bears, or a rocket ship made out of a cardboard box.

•  Role reversal

You might find that your child wants to act out new experiences, perhaps choosing to be the teacher in ‘going to school’ while you have to be the pupil. This kind of game allows your child to feel more in control of a new chapter in her life.

•  It really helps if you join in these games with your child and her friends when you can. However try not to fill in all the gaps – encourage your child to decide what the landscape around you looks like in her head. Is it hot or cold? Desert or city? Exciting or scary? What’s going to happen next?

•  Share lots of picture books. A range of different illustrative and storytelling styles will help your child find the kind of creative outlet that suits her and will show her that life isn’t just about hard facts and everyday experiences.

•  If your child’s imagination brings on fears that real monsters are hiding under the bed, for example, try to play these down without belittling your child’s anxiety. Be playful and seek out storybooks that deal with common fears like darkness at bedtime, or spiders!

•  Some children like to act out their imaginative ideas but others will want to put these down on paper by making models or painting pictures. All these are great and a passion for these activities may go in phases – this is completely normal.

•  If your child extends fantasies into episodes of telling lies try to gently guide your child as to what is fun and what can be misleading to other children and adults. Up the ante by joining in the fantasy so your child can see that making up stories can be fun when it’s obviously silly, but sometimes can be upsetting if it’s just telling tales or lies.

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