The Importance of Free Time and Benefits of Imaginative Play

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How important is imaginative play? Many kids, even very young ones are over-scheduled and stressed out. Little kids are expected to sit in their chairs, follow rules and play nicely with friends at school. Then when kids come home, they’re often immediately thrust into running family errands, sports practices, chores and homework. Dinner time comes quickly and if you have a picky-eater, there’s additional stressors. Bedtime can be an occasional fight and then finally, rest (maybe).

I’ve come to recognize that when my kids are stressed they behave similarly to me when I’m feeling the pressure. My kids tend to be short-tempered, constantly at the verge of tears and lack energy and concentration when they’re stressed out. I know that when I make time in our day for open-ended play, everyone is in a better mood. I’m sharing how I make the time after school enjoyable and open to playtime for my son. It’s a chance for him to decompress after school and I find that free play time makes him more agreeable for the rest of the day!

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

Facilitating Imaginative Play

Playtime is an important part of our day, especially during back to school season. When my 6-year old son gets home from school, I make sure that he has his own dedicated playtime where he can be creative, make a mess with his toys for the sake of imagination and loosen up on the rules!

That’s not to say that we don’t start with a few expectations on how the day will go. I start by chatting with him in the car on the way home. I like to let my kids know exactly what to expect so there aren’t any surprises. Our conversations often go in this order: “When we get home, I’d like you to hang up your backpack first. Then please take off your school clothes and shower. After that, you may have a snack and play”. I usually have him repeat the steps so he’s clear on my expectations. Once he’s completed his daily tasks, he’s able to free his mind for open-ended play.

Look at that big smile! Can you tell he was delighted with his new PLAYMOBIL toys? Hover over the image below to see more information about these PLAYMOBIL toys and to purchase them at Walmart!

Choosing the Best Imaginative Toys

Toys that inspire imagination and creativity are what I’m drawn to the most for my kids. I tend to gravitate towards the unplugged toys and it brings me joy to see my kids creating and using their imagination.

Open-Ended Toys – Craft items like clay, paint, paper and pencils are a must-have in our art box. My son is able to access these in our garage and knows that cleaning up afterwards allows him to play with them on his own (ie: make a mess and leave it for mom and you may have your privilege rescinded!) My 1st grader can often be found sitting at the desk for hours, making cards for his classmates or creating his own “homework” assignments while he plays school.

Other open-ended toys could include fabric pieces and blocks. These items can be used to create anything out of the child’s own imagination. Give a baby or toddler an open-ended toy and see what they do with it; it will often be very different from what a preschooler or elementary aged child would do.

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

Pretend Play Toys – Older kids (preschool and elementary) enjoy the drama of pretend play. Pretend play toys like dress-up clothes, puppets and dolls can be more fun when played with two or more children. Other pretend play toys are animal figures and cars, which lend themselves well to play alone.

My Son’s Favorite Imaginative Play Toys

PLAYMOBIL has long been a family favorite and I was excited to find that PLAYMOBIL is now being offered at Walmart. Walmart truly has the best prices around and my kids always want to visit the toy department because of the broad selection.

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys.

I purchased the PLAYMOBIL School Bus so my son could play out his day at school with his toys. I love the attention to detail in the pieces (and my son loves that the bus lights up!). I listen in on his play conversation and hear him using the names of his friends when playing with his PLAYMOBIL toys.

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

We also chose the PLAYMOBIL Take Along Police Station. PLAYMOBILE offers both imaginative play sets that are both realistic (police and firefighter) as well as fantastical (dinosaurs). This cool set easily folds up for storage and all the pieces fit inside, which I love!

Classic toys, like PLAYMOBIL have been handed down through all of my children because of their durability and high quality. And with play sets that help develop both cognitive and social/emotional skills, PLAYMOBIL toys are always welcome in our house.

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

What Can You Do as a Parent to Encourage Imaginative Play?

First off, make time in your daily schedule to encourage imaginative play. Supply your child with high quality toys, like PLAYMOBIL and then let them play. You might find it hard at first, letting go of your schedule but once you see how imaginative play works with your child, you’ll likely want to make more time for play!

When my son is alone in his room playing I know that this is a safe place for him. He can’t make any “mistakes”. There is no “wrong way” to play. I let him have this quiet time alone, without older siblings or baby sister butting in. This way he can play however he wants without having to share or mold his imagination to someone else. When he’s playing, I make sure that I’m entertaining the other kids so he can have his space.

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys

And although I occasionally poke my head in the door to catch a glimpse of him playing, I make it a point not to comment on his dialogues. I never want to embarrass or stifle him for using his colorful imagination.

Which of the PLAYMOBIL toys would your kids love to play with? Be sure to click through and see the collection available now at Walmart.

Why do kids need free time for imaginative play? These are the tips for squeezing in free play and ideas for the best toys. #AD #PlayWithPlaymobil | Imaginative Toys | Gift Guide | Open-Ended Play | Imagination | Toys for Kids

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