Playing with the Imagination

by Miss Rachel

Between planning and preparing meals, doing laundry, cleaning up countless messes, and attempting to take care of oneself, there isn’t a lot of extra time and energy for parents or caretakers of young children (and even older children). Sometimes, it’s hard to find the energy to play one more round of house or restaurant with your little one. But these kinds of play that use imagination are key to social development. According to Maggie Sabin from Edutopia, imaginative or pretend play allows kids to play out scenarios they may see in the world around them safely. They can work through events that might be scary to them, like going to the doctor. Maybe they choose to play house and they want to be a parent; this can help them process others’ thoughts and feelings in addition to exploring relationships in their lives.

At our library storytimes, we use imaginative play to develop all kinds of skills. If we’re working on shapes, we might have a shape monster come out who is hungry for triangles, so the kids have to find triangles to feed the shape monster. It sounds just as silly as it is, but our little storytime crew doesn’t want to leave the shape monster hungry! We also wave around colorful scarves and pretend to make popcorn with them. Kids have wide imaginations with few limits. Even the rug we sit on for storytime provokes imagination. On the rug is a design of a pond with a bridge across it. On a regular basis, I’ll hear from some little reader sitting on the bridge that I need to move because I’m sitting in the water. We make a big splash about it!

But if you’re looking for a sweet book about imaginary friends, we have a new one that brought tears to my eyes. “Real To Me” by Minh Le explores the relationship between a little girl and a fluffy, green imaginary friend. When you’re told that your imaginary friend isn’t real, how do you respond?

We have a couple of stories that center around imagination and animals too. In the story “I Am Cat!” by Peter Bently, we see a day in the life of a sassy little cat who imagines himself to be all kinds of bigger and fierce lions, leopards, and tigers – oh my! “If I Was A Horse” by Sophie Blackall asks a lot of silly questions that make the reader think outside the box: If you were a horse, what would you do? Could you fit in your clothes? Would you give your little sister a ride? Would your brother even notice?

The next time your little one asks to play house or restaurant or whatever with you, know that they’re learning so much with this kind of play. Not only do we have books to spark the imagination, but we also have storytimes here at the library to encourage imaginative play. Join us for our baby and toddler storytimes on Wednesdays at 10:15am and our preschool storytimes on Fridays at 10:00am.

Sabin, Maggie. “Facilitating Learning through Imaginative Play.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational

Foundation, 4 Apr. 2022,

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