“Imagination is everything. It is the preview for life’s coming attractions.”- Albert Einstein.
When it comes to child development, Einstein hit it out of the park with this quote. In a world slowly being overrun with screens and where the commitments for children seem to be never-ending, the essence of free play is starting to get lost. While encouraging our children to do their homework, read or practise their maths is of course helping foster important skills, so much of a child’s lifelong development comes from engaging in free play. In other words, let their imaginations run wild.
Since Christmas is coming up, remember a time when you have bought your child an impressive present, only to see them take the simplest item and have a ball? Or how about when you have purchased something that comes in a large box? The hours of fun that comes with small children playing in boxes can be perplexing when you see their normal, most often expensive, toys being abandoned for some structured cardboard. On one hand, it can be a little annoying, but deep down we all admire the way a child can bring the simplest of things to life.
Imagination Can Equal Reality
If you have spent more than five minutes around children, you will know that their imagination can be incredible. When it comes to free-play and imagination, other than just sheer happiness, what are the benefits of letting your child engage in this style of play? Well, there are more than you may realise.
Free play and imagination encourage children to test their limits. From imagining they are firefighters attending an emergency to practising their cooking skills, they can push the limits of their knowledge. Children learn from copying what is around them and in this imaginary setting, they can practice the skills or act out these fantasies without the risk of getting hurt.
It also is a fantastic way to build upon certain developmental skills. Playing with toys in a certain, moving and picking things up along with other movements they will be exposed to helps develop finer motor skills and coordination. Another developmental area that children can develop through free play, especially if they have siblings, friends or parents are involved, is their speech and social skills. By communicating with who they are playing with or simply acting out with their toy’s certain situations, they can practice words and phrases they have heard for themselves.
Parents Can Play Too
Getting involved with your child’s play is another way to not only keep an eye on them but also can help with their development. Touching on the previously discussed communication skills, by interacting with their play and letting them explain can help broaden their vocabulary as well as help them learn to put their actions into words. Since little ones do learn from mimicking too, it is a great way to teach them new skills in a playful setting. An additional bonus: every moment when they are young is precious, so create some wonderful memories and get in touch with your inner child as well.
Creating A Safe Space
While we have spent a lot of time talking about the world our little ones may be creating in their imagination, it is important that we also are able to create a physical space in their home for this type of free play. We want them to be able to play, explore and have fun safely so they can truly get the most of their playtime. Here are some things to take into consideration when setting up the best possible play space, inside or outside.
The most obvious thing when setting up a safe space for them to play will be supervision. You want to set them up in a spot that is easy to keep an eye on them, not necessarily hovering over them, but at least you are in earshot. A plus side of having a delegated play space also teaches boundaries. By having areas that are spaces they can play freely in, they will learn that certain places are meant for certain things and that is a skill that will help them when they are attending pre-school, kindergarten and/or school.
Another way to ensure this space is safe is by using a play mat. Not only does it provide a physical representation of where the space to play is, but if you get the right mat, it can be a colourful and creative way to bring that space to life. Zen Vibes understands that a baby play mat is not just something to roll out, it becomes a part of your child’s playtime. By creating cork kids play mats with exciting designs that can stimulate creativity and fun, getting your little one to stick to the baby floor mat will be no issue. Not only are they beautifully designed, but they are also very non-toxic. We know little ones like to stick everything in their mouths as well as do not always have the best hygiene practices, so our cork play mats for kids are safe as well as being antibacterial. Made from eco-friendly materials and with water-based prints, they are durable and can be used inside and outside.
Being on the ground and getting low into a child’s world is such a rewarding experience as a parent. With our large play mats- there is plenty of room for parents to be able to join in on the fun. Since they are also non-slip, they make the perfect family exercise mat. Family dance parties, yoga sessions or just having physical fun with your little ones- you do not have to worry about getting injured from a slippery, unstable mat. Another bonus is that prints are so beautiful, they can blend right in with the décor.
There is so much a child can create just with their imagination when given the freedom to play. Turn off the television and take a day away from the structured activities, see how the magic unfolds.