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Our instincts and common knowledge as parents tune us into the fact that our growing children require all the protection, water, food, and love we can give. But, as we care for their healthy growth, just how much attention and emphasis do we actually place on the role of play in our children’s development? With today’s hurried lifestyles and our increasing dependence on various technologies for interaction, learning, and entertainment, the amount of time allotted to creative and imaginative kids play has diminished. Creative play, especially when emphasized from a very early age, is pivotal to development as it contributes to the cognitive, social, physical, and emotional welfare of a child. What’s more, the lack of play in a child’s life can often have adverse, long-term effects such as anti-social behavior and learning disorders.

In any given stage of development – newborns, infants, toddlers, or older – young children learn through imagination and acting. For instance, you might see your child pick up such a simple object as an eraser and act out the motions and sounds of an airplane whizzing through the sky. What we view as such a simple and basic action is truly a huge deal in terms of your child’s development. He/she is using an arbitrary object to represent something else by giving it life and motion. As children explore their surroundings, they begin to interact with them through imagination and experience. Gradually, your child will grow to recognize more objects, settings, and scenarios and will even begin to create their own scenarios as they engage in imaginary activities with toys or friends. All of this interaction is incredibly vital to your child’s development. The more opportunities they have daily to engage in creative play, the more developed their social, emotional, language, and thinking skills will become.

As parents, we need to be aware that such play and exploration does not always occur on its own. While increasingly technologically advanced games exist today, it is the simplest of games and objects that will allow our children to develop strong skills in problem solving, communication, and abstract thinking. As parents, we must cultivate our children’s imaginations and creativity. We have to be active in providing them with the necessary outlets and tools to discover, imagine, and create.