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Playing fantasy with children: What they learn and how it enriches their lives

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How do children use their imagination in their play? How can adults encourage this? Let's look at the possibilities.

Fantasy is an important developmental process for children. It helps them deal with their fears and teaches them to get a better grip on their emotions. For example, they use their imagination to represent their fears in their play.

In this article I discuss how children use their imagination in their play and why this is so important for their development.

What is fantasy play

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What exactly is fantasy?

Fantasy as the creation of ideas and visual images

Fantasy is a form of play in which children and adults create ideas and visual images. It is a creative process in which people take on roles, mimic and imitate experiences, and look at the possibilities around a particular material or theme. Simply put, fantasy is creating something that isn't there, without having to adhere to boundaries or limitations.

Technically speaking, pretend play is the game where children pretend, say, a cup is a telephone, while bee role play a real telephone could be used.

So there is some overlap, but it is not the same. You can role-play without assuming a role, and you can role-play without necessarily using your imagination.

Fantasy as an important development for children

Fantasy is an important development for children. It stimulates the development of problem-solving skills and creativity. Children learn to look at things in different ways and to be critical. Literature studies, such as the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, have shown that fantasy plays an important role in the development of children. The exercise of fantasy can make connections in a broad and flexible way and stand in a loose way to reality.

Fantasy as an infinite and boundless form of play

Pretend play is a form of play in which children each time take on a different role and the possibilities are endless. It is an open-ended form of play in which children can let their imagination run wild. The boundlessness of fantasy stimulates the development of imagination and creativity. It's great to see how children use their imaginations to discover new possibilities.

Fantasy as a valuable adult skill

Fantasy is important not only for children, but also for adults. Taking a role and creating original solutions can be of great value to companies and organizations. It brings enthusiastic students and broader-thinking managers into business who notice that innovative and relevant questions from customers ultimately lead to customer satisfaction. In addition, it can be measured to what extent the person benefits from his or her fantasy.

Why is fantasy important for children?

Fantasy stimulates creativity and problem solving skills

Imagination is an important part of children's play. It allows them to come up with ideas and understand and populate their environment in a creative and flexible way. This ensures that children can express their imagination and learn new things. In addition, fantasy stimulates children's problem-solving skills, as it enables them to come up with solutions to problems that arise during play.

Fantasy helps children overcome fears

Fantasy allows children to express and understand their fears. Fantasizing helps children face their fears and learn how to deal with them. This helps them to get a better grip on their emotions and to deal better with stressful situations.

Imagination teaches children to be in charge of their own play

Fantasy allows children to create and direct their own play. This helps them make their own decisions and take charge of their own game. This is an important step in children's development as it teaches them to be in charge of their own lives.

What children learn from pretend play

Social and communicative skills

Pretend play gives children the opportunity to explore and process situations they have experienced or that are new and confusing to them. In a safe setting, they can experiment with different roles and situations in which they can express themselves and express their feelings. This stimulates not only their creativity, but also their ability to develop complex social and communication skills.

Empathy and understanding of others

By imitating events and situations in their pretend play, children learn to empathize with others and take their feelings and needs into account. They practice coming up with compromises and dividing roles, and learn how to deal with quarrels and conflicts. This gives them insight into the emotions and thoughts of others and encourages empathy.

Creativity and discovery

Pretend play offers children the opportunity to explore and develop their creativity. They can design and explore new worlds and come up with their own solutions to complex problems. By playing different roles and creating stories, they practice their ability to discover and design.

Waiting your turn and practicing reactions

In pretend play, children also learn to wait their turn and to deal with the reactions of others. They practice listening to others and responding to their ideas and suggestions. This helps them better understand and navigate their real lives.

Stimulation of higher thinking skills

Educator Langeveld called pretend play a “key to success and happiness” because it offers children the opportunity to stimulate higher thinking skills. By playing multiple roles and creating complex stories, children learn to deal with abstract concepts and to reason at a higher level. This can help them develop their cognitive skills and their academic performance.

Pretend play: a unique form of learning for children

Pretend play as a pedagogical tool

Pretend play is an important part of child development, especially in the early years. It allows children to use their imagination and explore new situations. It develops their ability to make connections and create stories. In addition, pretend play helps children use their senses and make observations through touch and other forms of interaction. It contributes to the development of their social, emotional and cognitive skills.

Fantasy play in action

An example of pretend play is when my daughter plays a shop where she sells products and pays back money to customers. She practices how to greet and say hello to customers, how to present the products beautifully on a plate and how to call her little brother over the intercom to help. She also learns how to deal with clients and how to handle new situations. This kind of pretend play allows children to express their unique ideas and creativity and develop their skills.

Fantasy play and role play

Pretend play can also include role-play, such as playing heroes and heroines from stories such as Frozen, where children can empathize with the characters and create their own stories. This kind of pretend play allows children to explore their own safe boundaries and express their fantasies. It also helps them understand the value of collaboration and teamwork.

Pretend play as preparation for adult work

Pretend play is not only a form of children's play, but it also prepares children for adult work. It teaches them how to deal better with difficult situations and how to be creative in finding solutions. Pretend play helps children express their ideas and do their job better according to their own standards. It also shows them that their work is important and that their efforts are appreciated.

Fantasy play as a pure form of expression

Pretend play can also be a pure form of expression, such as when a child draws a picture of the castle in which the wolf lived during a walk with dad. It is a simple example of how pretend play can be used to stimulate children's imagination and show them that their ideas and fantasies are valuable. It shows children that their fantasies can be used as a way to carefully observe and understand their surroundings.

Pretend play is an important part of children's development and gives them the opportunity to learn and grow in their own way. It shows children that their ideas and fantasies are valuable and that they are valued. It contributes to their development in many areas and is an important pedagogical resource for parents and childcare workers.

Imaginative Role Play: How Kids Ages 3 and Up Use Their Imaginations

Development of the game level

Children start imaginative play at an early age. For example, a toddler can already play with a baby doll and later with cars and a play kitchen. From about the age of 3, the role play becomes more developed and focused. Children can then, for example, think of a storyline and act out it with puppets or other materials.

Important skills

Pretend play is an important part of child development. It stimulates the imagination and helps children to discover their identity and process events. Through play, children can immerse themselves in their fantasy world and believe in the roles they play. For example, this can help with learning how to deal with emotions, such as when they play an evil witch.

Storylines and roles

Children from the age of 3 can play more focused and come up with a storyline. For example, they could role-play using a phone or remote control to drive a small car or slide across a bridge. They can also do yoga, lie down and read a book or sit on top of the slide and get a bag.

Playing with dolls and other materials

Children can use various materials to stimulate their imagination. This way they can play with dolls and give them a role in their storyline. They can also use a washing machine or a play kitchen to bring their imagination to life. The lack of realistic detail can actually help stimulate the imagination.

Empathy and numeracy

Pretend play can also help develop empathy and numeracy skills. For example, children can give a doll a bottle and put it in a cradle. By repeating these actions, they learn to link them to each other and develop a sense of simple connections. They can also serve cupcakes and divide them between several dolls, teaching them how to divide and count.

Don't underestimate the importance of pretend play

Pretend play is an important part of child development and should not be underestimated. It helps children to construct their imagination and discover who they are. By playing, they can slowly get used to the transition from smaller to bigger and they learn to deal with stimuli. It is therefore important to give children the space to play and to use their imagination.


Fantasy is an important development for children and means a lot. It helps them solve problems, develop their creativity and improve their problem solving skills.

So always keep an eye on them and let their imagination run wild. This way they can let their imagination run wild and discover their creativity.

Always something to do for the holidays or rainy day?

Play Choice now has the ultimate activity book collection, with over 60 pages of fun coloring pages and educational puzzles.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child he came into contact with everything related to games when his mother started the Tinnen Soldaat in Ede. Now he and his team create helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.