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Why imaginative play is more important than you think

Children are well known for their vibrant and endless imaginations. Does creative, imaginative play do anything besides entertain? The answer is yes.

Little girl having tea party |

Photo credit: KidStock/Blend Images/Getty Images

Having a good imagination is part of childhood, but you might be surprised to learn that creative, imaginative play is a crucial part of brain growth and development. Learning how to incorporate essential creative and imaginative play into your child’s daily life is not only important to their development, but it’s fun — and easy to do.

Long-term benefits of imagination

Creative play and a great imagination are not simply fun and games — well, yes they are, but they are also so much more. “Play is important to our long-term cognitive development,” says Elizabeth Rood, M.Ed., director of the Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC). “It’s not an accidental thing — it’s programmed into our biology. Imaginative play helps us figure out how to make sense of the world around us.”

Rood says that imaginative play helps children in more ways than one, and when a creative effort is acknowledged by adults in their lives, they learn that their thoughts and efforts are valued. Creative play helps children develop socially and builds vital connections not only within their family, but in the structure of their brains as well.

Partnership with Julius Jr.

Julius Junior by Saban Brands |

The CCC was launched in 2011 by the Bay Area Discovery Museum to undertake research and help advance creative thinking for all children by providing training and inspiration for those who are involved in their lives, whether they be teachers or parents. “The CCC is a relatively new organization, and our work is aimed at shifting the way adults who work with young people approach kids, focusing on developmentally-appropriate topics and activities, and fostering natural creativity,” explains Rood.

The CCC has partnered with Saban Brands and Julius Jr., which is an all-new animated preschool series based on the Paul Frank family of characters. You can catch it weekdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 10 a.m. (EST/PST) on Nick Jr. in the U.S. — and the really cool thing? The CCC has created Inventing Time Family Activity Guides, featuring activities that go along with the characters and ideas of the show that parents can easily do at home with their children — and you don’t have to buy a single thing.

“These activities encourage parents to use everyday objects they have around their house,” Rood tells us. “Helping parents understand that there are really simple things they can do with what they already have — like strapping rubber bands around things and showing their child how to make their own music — encourages both the parents as well as their kids.” These activity guides can be printed off and include open-ended discussion ideas for adults to use to keep their kids’ creativity flowing.

Reaching and teaching more families

Rood is excited about the new partnership because of how much further their teachings will go. “This allows us to do our work with parents with a very broad audience,” she tells us. “There are a lot of parents who utilize our site, but that encompasses a relatively narrow scope. There are a lot of people who want to do the best for their kids, and this will help them learn that there are tools they can use that they already have.”

Check out the Inventing Time! activity guides (there are too many good ones for us to pick a favorite!) and enjoy Julius Jr. with your little ones on Nick Jr. every Sunday. And do yourself and your child a favor and help them get their imagination on. Their brain depends on it.

More on your child’s development

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Your child’s developing brain
How to teach emotional intelligence to kids

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