From around 14 months of age, you will notice that your toddler is starting to imitate roles that they see play out in your home. For example, while you are feeding them, they also want a spoon and will try to feed you, a doll or the family dog. If you are wiping down the table after dinner, your toddler will want their own cloth, so that they can also practice cleaning like mommy. The props involved, in this case food, a spoon or a cloth, are completely realistic. From around 3 years of age, the props start to represent what is needed, rather than looking exactly like the real deal. Your 3 year old will mix cake batter for a delicious cake, using a stick for a spoon, a bucket for the bowl, and mud for the batter. Symbols are starting to take form in their brain, and imagination is starting to develop. Your 3 year old will also start giving toys a voice and use language to plan the play, talk about the play, and talk during the play activity. The magic of imagination is starting to formulate. From around 4 years of age, your child will start role playing and even acting out scenarios they may never have experienced before.
Pretend play leads to imaginary play, which unlocks so much more development within your child’s brain, never mind how much fun they will have clip-clopping around in your high heels or frolicking like fairies in the garden. Problem solving, creativity, thinking outside the box, dealing with roles or situations that you have never experienced before, coordinating and cooperating with others, coming up with brand new concepts – these are all the skills that our children need for the jobs of the future. Jobs that have not even been invented yet. It is so vital that we nurture our toddlers’ creativity, and not just their physical abilities, as this will truly give them a head start in life.
So how can we nurture our children’s imaginations?
Start with pretend play! Cooking in the kitchen, helping to clean the home with their own sponge or cloth, washing their doll during bath time. 1 and 2 year olds will love to play in a toy kitchen with realistic looking toy food, or push a baby doll in a pram. From 3, these same toys might be diversified – the family cat may be pushed in the old doll’s pram, or maybe their favourite Jog the Frog plush toy. The toy pots might be moved to the sandpit for some incredible gastronomic fun with sand, twigs, leaves and flowers. A child’s work is to play. Play will equip them for their future.
Contributed by Lauren Mayer of Clamber Club Toddlers – Atlantic Seaboard
Tel: 082 789 0374