In our highly structured world today, it can be easy to over-schedule our children and rob them of opportunities to be imaginative.  Some children are highly imaginative, and if you have one of those you know it! On the other hand, you may have a child who tends to role play situations they’ve experienced or seen, and it’s important to give that child “food” on which to build his imagination. I’ll share more on that later…

I wanted to share some fun that my granddaughter and I had quite a few years ago when she was just three-and-a-half… spontaneous, memorable fun. Maybe it will remind you of similar times you’ve had playing with and watching your children at play and bring a smile to your face:

After piling sand toys, chairs, blankets and a bit of provisions (water & pretzels) in the car, my daughter, Becky, and I took Lily to the beach. While Becky set up the chair and blanket area, Lily and I wandered down the sand into one of those unexpected imaginary adventures. As we walked quite a distance we saw old pilings from long ago piers jutting up out of the sand. They reminded me of a castle and when I mentioned that to Lily she said, “Oh, I’m the King and you’re the Princess,” and thus our adventure began. We created imaginary rooms, and then set out to see how our Kingdom was doing. I suggested that the people of one area might need more food, so we gathered up (purely imaginary) food and packed our horses with provisions to take to the people in need. Then we traveled much further down the beach and found some other subjects in need of protection–there was a bullet hole in some of the wood (actually a fallen out knot-hole). This discovery spurred us on to go all the way back to our castle, talk to the soldiers there and lead a unit to protect the people. We retraced our steps, found the area that needed protection and had a battle to chase away the enemy. Inspired by a thread on the Five in a Row Message Boards about good kings and bad kings, I remember telling Lily what a good king she was…that a good king protects his people fighting off enemies, makes sure they have enough food, etc. As we proceeded up and down the beach she would gallop on her horse. She asked me to gallop, but as I don’t have quite that much energy and there were other people at the beach watching us, I said I didn’t think I could and Lily’s reply was a quick, “Ok, I’ll lead your horse!” After we made sure that our kingdom was safe and after we had worn ourselves out Lily proceeded to gallop about a half a mile down the beach, back to her mom. Watching her happy little lilt as she made her way across the sand, waves lapping at her feet, I was overwhelmed with satisfaction, love and amazement at the “wonderful-ness” of childhood and what an important part imagination plays in those precious days.imaginationQuote

An observation I made about the kind of pretending Lily and I were doing at the beach that week is that much of our imaginary game playing centers around bits and pieces we’ve read in books. Reading many books is a delightful way to “gather food” for one’s imagination, and quality literature can offer a springboard off of which children jump into many hours of imaginary play!

Role playing the stories you read in Five in a Row is a way to reinforce the character qualities exhibited in the stories, build memory recall skills as your child acts out the order of events, and gives an opportunity for rewriting the story by adding your child’s own interpretation if you choose to do so!

Imaginary play can happen anywhere, often promotes laughter that is so necessary to the joy of life, and such play can be great material for precious memories. Do you find it easy to “play pretend” with your children?  It comes more easily to some than it does to others, but it’s worth it! What have you learned about the importance of imaginary play?

Jane Claire Lambert



Edited by Melissa Crabtree