Saturday, September 5, 2009

Imaginative Play

It is so cute to watch kids, especially toddlers and preschoolers use their imagination during play. As a therapist, I can often get little kids to do some amazing things with imaginative play, and the little ones don't even realize they are improving with their body strength, communication, sensory processing, or other areas of development. They just think they are playing. With imagination: ankle weights become "space boots", arms out to the side become "butterfly wings", and slithering on the belly turns one into a "sneaky snake". Even though as an occupational therapist, my main training is not in speech and language skills, I can really work on expressive and receptive language skills during imaginative play.

I have to hand it to my husband, he is actually better at imaginative play than I am. And that is saying something, because I love to play and act silly. Last year my daughter was really into the Peter Pan Disney movie. So, my husband went to a local party supply store and bought her a Peter Pan costume and some pirate accessories. My husband and then 4-year old daughter would play for up to 30 minutes as she acted out scenes from the movie. He even "threw her" onto the bed as if she was being shot out of the canon. She also jumped from the bed to his arms as she was "walking the plank". It was so cute. Now, I am sad that she isn't as into acting out stories. She is in kindergarten and is much more into playing with games, dolls, tea party, and her friends.

So, today I was watching my 15 month old son play with an unactivated cell phone as he said "hi". I was thinking, "yeah", I get to watch his imagination develop. He is at the age where it is just emerging. Let the fun begin!

At work, so often the toddlers I work with can't yet participate in imaginative play until we work on some underlying skills: joint attention, memory, following simple instructions, sensory processing, & imitating other peoples actions, sounds, or words. So often the attention and imitation are the two biggies we work on. I get so excited when I get to work on the high level skill of imagination! All of the sudden we can be clowns in the circus, cowboys on a horse, and any zoo animal we so desire to be! Sometimes it is even fun to make up an animal or thing that doesn't yet exist!

Well, I am off to go watch the ultimate imagination movie with my daughter and husband on the couch...Toy Story. From the opening scene of the boy playing with his toys to the way the creators of the movie have the toys come to life, this movie is full of imagination! It's been around for awhile, but we love it. We are ready for Toy Story 3 that is due out in 2010!


  1. This is a really great post and I hope lots of parents read it... being imaginative and encouraging imagination has been shown through Dr Karen Stagnitti's OT research to have links with improving problem solving skills, social skills and literacy skills. This early article "The importance of pretend play in child development: An occupational therapy perspective". In the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, Volume 63, Issue 3, March 2000, Pages 121-127 is a great place to start with Karen's work. Anita Bundy and other international paediatric OTs have informed Karen's work. Karen is a colleague and friend from my days at Deakin University.
    Cheers, Anita.

  2. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I'm glad I'm not alone in being overwhelmed at the prospect of a GFCF diet. I will definitely check into the resources you listed.