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Unleashing Creativity: Why Imaginative Play is Important at Summer Day Camps

When you’re choosing a local summer day camp, consider imaginative play.

A child dressed as a wizard engages in imaginative play in a forest in North Vancouver
Imagination is critical for child development.

“The floor is lava! The floor is lava!” 

“I’m the king of the castle!” 

“Mommy! Daddy! I’m scared of monsters! There’s a monster in my closet!” 

Parents are constantly fielding concerns and ridiculous requests to drive out monsters or sip pretend coffee made of anything from bathtub bubbles to playground wood-chips. In classrooms, playrooms and summer day programs, kids make stuff up wherever they go.  It’s cute and funny, exhausting and annoying, and – to most adult minds – nonsensical at best. Why are kids always inventing things that aren’t there? 

Monsters and lava floors and castles in the sky shape kids’ worlds and their creativity. Adults look at these games and laugh or roll their eyes. We think kids are ‘messing around’ without a purpose, but research indicates that imaginative play is crucial for developing key skills in children. Here are three significant benefits experts have identified so far:

How does imaginative play help kids with their social skills?

Imaginative play develops critical social skills in kids. It allows them to practice social interactions and understand social norms. Creating, understanding (and sometimes breaking!) the rules of an imagined world helps kids experiment with consequences and relational dynamics in a safe environment. Living inside of a shared story develops empathy in kids and adults. If you think about it, empathy is really learning to listen to someone else’s story and imagining yourself in their position. This empathy-building is key to developing healthy, well-adjusted social skills. 

How are emotional development and decision-making skills developed through imagination?

Engaging in imagination and pretend play is linked with increased thoughtfulness, emotional engagement, understanding, and less selfishness and anger. Retreating to the space inside and considering a path forward before making a decision is a crucial skill in adulthood, especially when it comes to decisions that have intense implications or are fraught with emotion. This skill of taking stock, weighing options, and making a decision in a complex situation is important in all kinds of leadership. It is also an essential skill for kids to reach their true potential. Child development experts suggest using role-play with kids’ stuffed animals to work out their fears, apprehensions and struggles. Imagining that a beloved toy is facing these tough feelings and struggles allows kids to understand their own emotions and then envision how they ideally want to respond. 

How can imagination help develop future planning and creative problem solving skills?

Imagination allows kids to consider options and envision alternate paths for themselves. This is an essential skill when it comes to innovation and finding solutions to complex problems. Kids have the chance to develop this important skill in a safe and controlled environment when engaging in imaginative play at home, school or summer day camp. They can conceive of alternatives to their immediate circumstances, which can help them come up with creative, good options for solutions to their problems.

Why consider Wonderstruck Camp for a summer day program or day camp?

Wonderstruck Camp in North Vancouver, BC is a local camp for kids aged 5-9, where each activity advances the plot of a fantasy story. Kids explore an imaginary world filled with wizards, mermaids, fairies and more – led by the esteemed Professor of Magic, Dr.Lorekeeper, PhD. Consider registering for Wonderstruck when you are looking for summer camps 2024, especially if you’re looking for North Vancouver Summer Camps. Wonderstruck also has LIT and volunteer options if you are looking for a summer camp for teenagers. 


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