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Presenting Imaginative Play Experiences In Early Childhood Settings Betty Farmer Imaginative play involving figurines and miniature animals has been traditionally and cross culturally part of children’s play for centuries. In recent years this type of play has been somewhat lost, as the traditional philosophy of exploratory and meaningful free play in the early childhood field has been eroded. In this day and age there seems to be an increasing trend to expose children to structured learning with “right and wrong” outcomes which puts them under needless pressure and stress. Imaginative play provides a wonderful and absorbing play opportunity, where children are in charge of their own play and need not fear the risk of failure. There is an important difference between dramatic and imaginative play. The value of both these types of play are the same, but with dramatic play the child physically becomes involved in dramatizing a role, where as in imaginative play children project their thoughts and ideas through little props. In teaching students this important difference, we need to ensure they “feel” what it is like to explore open-ended materials and figurines that we would provide in early childhood programs. In setting imaginative play spaces there are some basic principles to follow to help make these areas work successfully. The selection of a range of open-ended props is necessary to ensure the child has plenty of opportunities to improvise and pretend. Materials set in an attractive, inviting way and a well-defined play space will promote constructive play. The same materials can be used over and over again but modifications will need to be made to rekindle interest and sometimes a complete change is necessary to stimulate new interest. Imaginative play spaces can be set as a solitary, parallel or small group spaces, according to the children’s needs and interests. For these spaces to work successfully adults need to observe the children at play and be ready add a suggestion or idea to extend creative play. The book “Just Imagine” that I am co-author of, has just been released in 2nd edition. It includes an extended range of beautiful photographs and information on how to present inviting imaginative play spaces for children under 6.
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