When adults encourage children’s imaginative play, gently steering it towards problems being solved, conflicts and dangers being defeated and ensuring that every child is contributing positively, we see rapid and transformative neurological growth. Children become more empathic, more attentive, less self-centred and more self-aware. They are then able to be more group-centred yet more independent, more goal-oriented yet more flexible, more curious, more inventive, better at communicating and sharing ideas with language, better able to connect ideas and more resilient. This means they grow into better learners, better colleagues, better partners and better citizens – not to mention better parents and happier, healthier people. We need to refocus attention on imaginative play simply because young children most need this support exactly when it is hardest for schools to provide it!
The Imagination Games will work on two levels. First, it is a way of ensuring imaginative play is happening in schools and is scaffolded by teachers, therapists or parents. It is also a social marketing exercise which refocuses community attitudes towards childhood on two vital fronts:
What children most need to learn in childhood is the ability to navigate their own emotions and those of other people, to cope with stress and to stay focused.
Adult support of imaginative play grows those abilities better and faster than anything else.