The importance of fantasy in childrens play

Published: 01st July 2007
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What is fantasy play?

Fantasy play is when young children create stories and act them out. Toddlers love this kind of role playing and it is really important for developing skills which will be invaluable to them in later life. What may seem a simple game of "going shopping" can actually involve quite complex thinking skills such as:

Planning, including deciding what to play in the first place (e.g., going shopping), the roles involved (e.g., shopper, baker, butcher, shop assistant), and things needed for the activity (e.g., car, trolley, shopping list, bags, money)

Problem solving and negotiating (e.g., "This time I'll be shop assistant helping you and you can be the person doing the shopping and trying to find what you need, and next time we'll swap over.")

Communicating through words and actions. From a very young age children practise their newly acquired talking skills through pretend play and will often chatter away to themselves whilst acting out a situation.

Expressing emotions (e.g., disappointment when you can't find what you want in the shop, panic when you realise you are running late)

Creativity and imagination; these type of games can get more elaborate as children get older (e.g., instead of simply being a shop assistant, they become a royal helper finding an exotic outfit for a king or queen)

Memory skills, as favourite experiences are repeated time and time again (e.g., going on holiday, visiting a favourite relative, having a birthday party)

How can I help my child develop these skills?

You can help develop these skills further by:

1. Creating a dressing up box and filling it with old clothes, scarves, jewellery, bags and hats that can be used for pretend play.

2. Encouraging children to talk about their pretend play, but without interrupting the flow of play. However, keep an eye on the 'theme'. If the fantasy play constantly tends towards violence eg wild monsters hurting people, research shows that this indicates children who are angrier and less cooperative.

3. Joining in! Offer suggestions but let the child lead as this will help develop their independence. You could try having a tea party, dressing a doll or playing hairdressers for example.

Great toys for pretend play:

There are so many toys on the market that are great for encouraging pretend play, including some fantastic educational wooden toys and traditional wooden toys. Here are just a few examples;

- wooden garage

- kitchen equipment like wooden cookers and toasters

- cash register

- diy toolbox

- gardeners kit

- vanity case

- dustpan, brush and broom

- pretend food that velcros together so it can be cut and sliced

Find out more about educational wooden toys for children which help encourage and develop fantasy play in children.


Karen Singleton

Strawberry Children's Toys

Karen is a mum of two who is passionate about quality, affordable toys which encourage learning and development through play. She runs her own online independent shop specialising in educational wooden toys and traditional wooden toys for babies and children under 5. All toys featured on Strawberry Children's Toys are played with, tested and enjoyed by real children.

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