The one thing that is obvious to every pre-school teacher is how much young children love imaginative games. When I purchase a new game for my class, some kids get excited. If I buy a new doctor's kit or a fireman costume, well, the whole class lines up for a turn.
Why do young children love imaginative play?
In my years of experience as a pre-school teacher and a mother, it has become clear to me that young children love imaginative play because they can be whatever they want to be. The life of a young child is extremely limited and structured. No three-year-old can go out for a walk by herself, choose her own food, or buy her own clothes. A young child is totally dependent on a parent or caretaker. True, he can express an opinion, but the bottom line is, the parent decides.
Children use a different method to see new places and experience new things --they use their imagination. While a four-year-old named Tracy might only be allowed to walk from home to pre-school and back home again, "Queen Tracy" rules a kingdom, lives in a big castle and rides her horse whenever she wants. The life of three-year-old Michael might be boring, but "Michael the fireman" is a hero.
Why Is Imagination Important?
The magic of early childhood is that children can not only imagine new and interesting situations to enhance their lives but they can also learn from these imagined situations. By putting on a cook's hat and baking up a storm, a child feels happier and more independent, and also thinks about what it really means to be a cook. He reviews his experiences with Mom or Dad in the kitchen and remembers what ingredients his parent use. In deciding to put the pretend pot on the stove or in the oven, he has the opportunity to expand his own world while applying his observations.
As adults, we learn from the world we live in and from our experiences; children do the same. But children have an added talent that every parent should encourage. Children learn not only from what they are, but also from what they want to be.