Benefits of Imaginative Play

Benefits of Imaginative Play

We all know that wonderful feeling when a child’s face lights up – something that so often happens at the mention of ‘Playtime’ or ‘Let’s play!

However, not all of us know the incredible benefits that imaginative ‘play’ brings to our children’s development. What are the benefits of play? How can we encourage children to learn through play at home?

What is Imaginative Play?

We spoke to education expert and Admissions Director at Eaton Square Prep and Nursery Schools, Annabel Coaker, to find out more. Annabel shares the benefits of play for young children and how parents can maximise the power of play from home.

Read on for Annabel’s insight and top tips…

The Benefits of Imaginative Play

“The benefits of play in a child’s early years are limitless. Learning through play is not simply a source of fun and excitement in a child’s day-to-day activities; it can also have an incredible effect on their lifelong development. This is repeatedly demonstrated by the world’s leading learning institutions, including The World Health Organization, UNICEF, Harvard University, American Academy of Pediatrics and many more!

To simplify the seemingly infinite studies and guidance on the power of play, I recommend grouping the benefits of play into three key areas: 

- Social Development
- Physical Development 
- Cognitive Development



1. Social Development: Nurturing communication, cooperation, empathy and independence

Imaginative play provides a perfect format for children to explore social interactions, strengthen communication skills and develop empathy. For example, when children imagine themselves in different roles (be it a doctor, teacher, superhero, sailor, pilot – whatever they’d like!), this role-play process helps them to understand various perspectives and assess different situations. The same can be said for when they engage in make-believe scenarios with their friends and/or their toys: they learn to negotiate, compromise and cooperate, which lays the foundation for positive social behaviour. 

At Eaton Square, we harness the power of play at every point. In the Early Years, structured play is built into the daily timetable, with role-play being expertly used to complement the children’s current learning topic. For example, dressing up as doctors, nurses, firemen and/or policemen for the ‘People Who Help Us’ topic is a regular highlight!

Annabel’s Top Tips: 

  • Organise playdates and group activities where children can act out scenarios together. Encourage them to rule the world as kings and queens; set up shop as shopkeepers and customers; or even put together a circus as a ring master, clown, acrobat or dancer!
  • Provide a range of toys that encourage role-playing. Pepa London’s soft toys and miniature Meet The Mice range are perfect for this.




2. Physical Development: Enhance fine and gross motor skills, coordination and core strength

Play is one of the best ways to help a child’s physical development: its benefits to both fine and gross motor skills are immense. While ‘gross motor skills’ refer broadly to larger body movements which enable standing, walking, running, and sitting upright; ‘fine motor skills’ support smaller movements (particularly those involving hands and fingers), such as eating a meal with cutlery, writing with a pen and getting dressed. Both types can be nurtured through indoor or outdoor play – the latter being particular beneficial to children.

The entire design of our iconic Eaton Square Nursery Schools is structured to maximise active, interactive play. Be it climbing up the three-storey beehive, counting numbered apples in the giant tree house or experimenting with buttons, zips and laces in our Montessori-inspired boards, these child-centred environments foster independence, discovery, creativity and experimentation – all of which are key to lifelong learning.  

Annabel’s Top Tips:

  •  Get some sturdy shoes for both indoor and outdoor play – enabling your child to run around like pirates, gallop like horses, fly like fairies or crawl like woodland creatures!
  • Provide a toy with a range of miniature accessories – Dressing a doll or teddy is fantastic for fine motor skills, as does helping them to serve miniature afternoon tea

3. Cognitive Development – Boost problem-solving, creativity and critical thinking skills

'Play’ and ‘learning’ should not be seen as separate entities. Indeed, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that ‘Play is not frivolous, it is brain-building’. When children engage in make-believe scenarios, they stimulate their brains in a way that encourages problem-solving skills, creativity and critical thinking abilities. Depending on the child’s age, other forms of play that promote cognitive development include building blocks, puzzles, memory games and garden adventures. Anything fun, safe and age-appropriate that gets a child thinking!

We maintain this powerful, play-based approach for children as they move up through Eaton Square Prep School. Our brand new STEAM learning centre – the first of its kind in a UK prep school, complete with interactive walls, floors and giant rocket climbing structure – truly brings academic learning to life in a most imaginative way.


Annabel’s Top Tips for Imaginative Play:

  • Read a book to your child (Pepa London has a super reading collection), pausing at key moments to ask your child open-ended questions such as, ‘What would you do if you were that character? What do you think will happen next? How many characters have we met so far?’ 
  • Organise your own games or tournaments at home, getting your child to compete in challenges such as ‘Imagine you’re an athlete, how fast can you run to the tree and back?’, ‘Pretend to be Tigger, can you hop ten times in a row?’, ‘Who can collect the most flowers in 30 seconds?’, or ‘Who can find the smallest object in the next minute?’. Invite friends and family and, if possible, involve your child in the planning (choosing the challenges, building obstacle courses, creating banners or posters, noting down results). For an extra brain boost, ask them who they think will win and why, then get them to review their predictions after! 


Further Information
For specific enquiries and/or further guidance for your little one, please contact Annabel Coaker: 


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