Anyone who has young children will have experienced the seemingly endless list of questions they ask. Curiosity is a natural and important part of a child’s development and it is this which encourages them to explore the world around them and learn from it. Youngsters have a great capacity for creative thought too, and you will no doubt have heard your little one talking about monsters and tooth fairies at some time.
Imagination Key to Learning
Although it may seem like play, when children get involved in make-believe games, it is an important part of them understanding the real world.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dr Paul Harris, a development psychologist, explained: “The imagination is absolutely vital for contemplating reality, not just those things we take to be mere fantasy.”
He suggested that it also helps children to empathise, by taking another person’s perspective into account.
Our imagination can help us to learn about people, such as knights, that we will never encounter, but who form an important part of our history.
Fostering that Natural Curiosity
Jacqueline Woolley, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who is currently studying so-called magical thinking, suggests it is important to encourage fantasy play.
Playing dress-up or pretending to be, say, a shop-keeper, vet or doctor can help to bolster that natural sense of curiosity.
You could have a lot of fun putting together a dressing-up box filled with outfits to inspire your child to play out different characters.
Things such as Djeco’s My Vet Set can help you to encourage your child to get involved in make-believe, plus it fires up that sense of creativity. It is also a good way to build their confidence.
Not every child who plays with a vet set will want to work with animals, but it may well get them thinking about what they want to do when they eventually grow up.
Playing together with your child can be a great bonding experience and it also allows you to build their powers of observation. You can guide them as to how to put the pieces of a jigsaw together, for instance, or watch as they learn themselves.
Sense of Achievement
While dressing up and pretending to be something you are not are essential for social skills and development, other games, such as puzzles, are brilliant for giving your child a sense of achievement. They require cognitive skills, as well as dexterity.
Ready-made craft kits are ideal for helping to hone these skills and they can be done by an individual, with friends or family, plus, it takes the stress out of coming up with something yourself.
Although it is often tempting to help a little one complete a game, they will get a real feeling of satisfaction when they are able to undertake a task from start to finish on their own. That is why, sometimes, it’s a good idea to take a back seat.
While it is important for them to understand that frustration is a natural part of learning, you should be careful to give them something age-appropriate. The last thing you want to do is put them off learning by giving them a toy which is beyond their level of understanding. Creating a relaxed, calm environment where children feel free to explore the world will really help them as they grow up.