What do an imaginary friend and a play kitchen have in common? Both can help a young child understand the larger world around them. However, when a child first introduces an imaginary friend in conversations at home or at preschool, parents and teachers alike may be baffled or somewhat confused. There is no need to worry.
What do psychologists say about imaginary friends?
Psychologists refer to the imaginary world and the invisible friends that populate it as a child’s internal elaboration. It is a sign of creativity in a world that often doesn’t know how best to deal with this trait. So is having an invisible companion a normal occurrence in childhood? Most psychologists would agree that it is a normal part of the growing process.
Imagination and a play kitchen?
With or without imaginary friends, most children use their imaginations to imitate their parents’ activities and play kitchens provide the perfect opportunity to do just that. At the preschool stage, children learn incredibly fast. A play kitchen helps them understand what the different appliances in a kitchen are for and how a person may operate them. It is a safe way for young kids to learn to do imaginary cooking without actually using electricity.
Imagination and brain development
If you watch you child at play, you will see how much information he or she has picked up through observation. Brain development takes place during play activities, and when playing includes an imaginary friend the child is acting through situations that increase his or her understanding of the environment, as well as both likes and dislikes. For example, if your child doesn’t like apple juice, she may say that her imaginary friend doesn’t like apple juice. Or if her aunt is in the hospital having a baby, then her imaginary friend’s aunt may also be in the hospital for the same reason.
How does a TV show affect the child’s development?
A child who is watching television cannot control the amount of sensory stimulation received from all the commercials and fast-paced visuals. The play kitchen allows the child to create an imaginary situation that can develop as quickly or as slowly as needed at that moment. It may be an elaborate feast with several real and imaginary friends invited; or it can be a re-enactment of the family’s workday breakfast routine. When a child is encouraged to use free time for interacting with his environment – which includes toys – the activity helps the brain make new connections. In contrast, TV watching has a negative effect on brain development in very young children. The over stimulation can lead to a shortened attention span.
What do the appropriate toys help?
Whether or not your child invites an invisible playmate to teatime or brunch, he or she can create fabulous pretend meals and cakes with the play kitchen. Interaction with toys, friends and parents helps the child to grow and develop in mind and creativity.
When children are given appropriate toys, such as the play kitchen, their playtime activities become some of the few experiences that they can control. That ability to make up menus creates make-believe pies and serve invisible tea helps a child understand and adapt to the larger and often unpredictable world.