Imaginative and sensory play in children is vital to their development. Whether the child takes on the role of a Princess in a Magical Palace, an Astronaut taking their first steps on Jupiter, or a deep-sea diver discovering the Mighty Two-headed Killer Octopus, one thing for certain is that pretend play is beneficial to aid a child’s growth.
What are the benefits of imaginative play?
From birth, children explore the world around them by using their senses; touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, and even movement. Sensory play is any activity in which a child uses their senses to create, investigate, and learn about their environment. Role play in children is an effective way to build speech and language skills, social and emotional resilience, increase self-awareness, and develop the ability to think critically and solve problems.
Neurodivergent children can greatly benefit from imagination in play as it advances speech and language, social interaction skills, and cognitive abilities. For example, executive functioning (the ability to maintain information, be flexible in one’s thinking, and demonstrate self-control) is often low in children with ADHD and autism. Stephanie M. Carlson, PhD, identified that pretend play uses the same brain networks as real behaviour. Thus, children who play as a superhero, for example, will transfer the executive functioning skills developed in that role to real-life situations.
The risks of technology use
However, many children and young people are missing out on important pretend play due to technology being used as a main form of entertainment. An annual Ofcom study identified that TV services are watched by 71% of 12 to 15 year olds, with younger children preferring YouTube as their main source of entertainment.
Admittedly, many adults (particularly those who work from their computers) are guilty of too much screen-time, despite evidence that overexposure to such technology is harmful to our well being. However, excessive technology use among children and young people with developing brains is the most concerning, especially with young people spending an average of four hours per day in front of a screen.
There are many risks that come with the increase of technology use among children. The blue light emitted from our screens interferes with our body clock, disrupting our natural sleep pattern, especially when screen time is allowed close to bedtime. Blue light can also cause headaches, dry eyes, and damage to the lens and retina.
Nevertheless, it is not just the blue light we must be cautious of; evidence suggests technology has detrimental effects on developing brains of children and young people. The more time spent on an electronic device, the less time a child is interacting with their environment and the people within it. Dr Kimberly Noble expresses the importance of face-to-face interactions among children for early language development. However, excessive screen time can hinder a child’s development of communication and social skills, leading to difficulties interacting with others and understanding what is socially acceptable among peers.
PODS can encourage imagination in play
This is where PODS come in! PODS are a whole new world to be explored within an inflatable, themed environment. These sensory tents come with the choice of three unique themes, and optional sound effects and short stories which will incite curiosity. PODS encourage the child to use their imagination and express themselves through creativity and exploration. Children can fully immerse their senses through themed play to stimulate skills such as problem solving and emotional regulation.
Therefore, imaginative play is not only enjoyable for children and young people, but also vital in many aspects of their social, emotional, and educational development.