Fantasy Play: Worthless or Wonderful?

Brooms turn into horses and playrooms into secret caves.  One of the key reasons why children should play is to develop their imagination and cognitive strength. Imaginary play or Fantasy play should, therefore, be encouraged by parents, right? Of course. Without a shadow of a doubt, parents should understand the importance of fantasy play and learn to play along.

Fantasy play reflects children’s growth, not just with regards to their cognitive skills, but also forms their perspective and enhances their socialisation skills, however, this is not where it ends. When you see your child mimicking your behaviour, walking around with your high heels and putting on lipstick while complaining about cooking dinner and finding the time to get everything done, your child is actually changing their perspective on how certain things work or forms new perspectives, but at the same time are busy appreciating a mother’s role.

So, what are the benefits of fantasy playing and why should we encourage our children to be creative and imaginative?

7 Benefits of Fantasy Play:

  1. Fantasy play improves self-esteem and self-confidence. It is easier for children to have confidence when they are imagining they are someone else.
  2. It improves self-expression skills.
  3. Develops imaginative thoughts and ideas.
  4. Promotes creative thinking.
  5. Improves language development and learning to understand the rules of social dialogue. This can also include becoming more aware of other people’s body language.
  6. Enhances social interaction which at a later stage will help with building friendships or having empathy with other people.
  7. Helps children to overcome fears

What does this mean for parents? 

This may require jumping out of your comfort zone for an hour or two to pretend that you’re riding on a dinosaur or exploring the depth of the sea with your little one.

Drink the magic potion your child has prepared for you in his or her secret laboratory, hop onto the magic carpet and soar off to a magical world. By doing this and encouraging fantasy play you are adding tremendous value to your child’s growth and development. Encourage them to be creative and do what children do best, have fun and just be kids.

6 Games and Activities:

  • Tell a favourite story and change the ending.
  • Make your own stories up by collecting old photographs and sticking them into a sequence that your child chooses. Let him say the words that are written on each page for each picture.
  • Provide a dressing up box. Your box need not contain expensive dressing up clothes. A piece of silky fabric can be used as a turban, some old stockings as a tail tucked into the back of trousers, netting could become a veil and mum and dads old shoes could complete an outfit! Wings can be made by gathering a rectangular piece of fabric in the middle and pinning it with a safety pin on a `butterfly’s’ back.
  • Make some puppets out of brown paper bags and a bit of wool for hair. Finger puppets from small rolls of cardboard and sock puppets from old odd socks also work well. Puppets encourage creative play, promote interaction and help to develop social and communication skills.
  • Build a house by hanging a blanket over a table. Leave your child to invent the rest.
  • Tell a story without using pictures and try to imagine the pictures in your head.

Contributed by Play Therapist Tania Prinsloo

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