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The Power of Play: 4 Ways to Encourage Imaginative Play

By Megan Brown (640 words)
Posted in Advice & Tips on March 8, 2012

There are (1) comments permalink

I am not quite ready to let M. go to Daycare.  I know intuitively she needs to and she is ready to but it seems I am not.  So I announced to JB that we needed to wait till April after flu season had passed.  Yes, yes a pathetic excuse but it was the best reason I could come up with faced with my little bean spending a few days a week away from me.  

So I decided to do a little research on play and how crucial it is in the development of our children to help me embrace her need to attend daycare.  I was actually quite surprised at some of the information I uncovered.  

Going in I knew play to be important, however, it never occurred to me that the type of play is crucial.  Some of the independent play we as parents reminisce about has been lost and that may actually not be a good thing.

Yes, we all want to keep our kids safe and the days of kids running off with friends to play hide and seek & cops and robbers are long gone.  So in a world where organizing play for kids seems like a job all its own how do we insure we are pointing our kids in the right direction?

The good news is it seems the best kind of play costs nothing and the one important must have is simply IMAGINATION..

According to “Old-Fashioned Play Builds Serious Skills” by Alix Spiegel researchers say imaginative play allows children to make their own rules and practice self-control.

Self-regulation is a critical skill for kids. Unfortunately, most kids today spend a lot of time doing three things: watching television, playing video games and taking lessons. 

So how can we as parents help mitigate the effects of our technologically driven-achievement oriented society?

Here are a few ideas:

1.Interactive Games:  Games such as Red Light/Green Light & Simon Says both require children to think and not do something, which helps to build self-regulation.

*Simon says FREEZE!!


2.Crafts:  Projects that require children to “create” something simply by using the items they are given-such as paint, glue, paper etc. encourage them to use their imaginations.

Irresistible  Ideas for Play Based Learning, a Blog written by Sherry and Donna, has some wonderfully irresistible and appropriate play based learning ideas for children.

*One of my favorites is “Painting Inside the Bottles”  


*Photo courtesy of Irresistable Ideas for Play Based Learning

3.Encourage Imaginative Play:  Realistic props are good for very young children, but otherwise encourage your kids to re-imagine how to use items they already have.  I can remember using a cardboard box and a red wagon to build a stagecoach for my little sister and her friends.  Complete with windows and a door, they made me pull them around for days!  But 25 years later we all still talk about how much fun we had.


 4.Activities That Require Planning:  Cooking is one of my favorites.  Not only are you encouraging creative thought you are also working on developing math skills.  One of our favorites is pizza night.  Though dough is easy to make and the kids love stretching and pulling it into shape!


These are only a few suggestions and I would absolutely welcome any others you may have!  We love hearing new ideas!

Happy play time!






Comments (1)

norahmarie posted on: March 8, 2012

Play is so important. What a good article. The word toy comes from (either greek/latin) to toil. children's work is to play. children learn through playing with toys and interacting with others, how to be a part of society.

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Kirsten Bischoff is Founding Partner of A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, she has spent most of her career entrenched in the highly entertaining world of…finance.  Kirsten lives in Springfield, NJ and when she is not working on she can usually be found playing chauffer to her over-scheduled twelve-year-old daughter Sophie. 

Megan Brown is Founding Partner of A graduate of University of Cincinnati she has over a decade’s worth of Wall Street experience spanning both sales trading and asset management marketing.  Megan lives in Westfield, NJ with her husband Josh and their daughter Madeleine.