As we have retreated inside, children need even more opportunities for world-building.
There was a period a few weeks ago when it felt like all of us were waking up and thinking; “what on earth was going on in that ridiculous dream?!” Researchers have found that as we have withdrawn from our usual environments due to social distancing, our minds have been left with a shortage of inspiration. This causes the brain to go into overdrive as we sleep, coming up with ever weird and wacky dreams.
Unable to go to school, to the shops, to friends’ houses, the cinema or other attractions, children – who as we know incredible imaginations that require constant stimulation – need new worlds to explore.
Pretend play, role play, immersive play, or even world-building, whatever you want to call it, is central to children’s learning. It allows children to act out situations they may one day find themselves in, and practice how to react. While on the surface these scenarios may seem far-fetched; Barbie falling into a shark infested sea (bathtub), reasoning skills are key.
Creating a restaurant together, dressing up as a grown-up lady, or embarking on an expedition into the jungle, children are learning to solve problems, coordinate, cooperate, and think flexibly. Imagine the skills required to turn the sandbox into a desert island with hidden pirate treasure! In one 2014 study, children who were most fantastical and highly engaged in play were the ones who showed most improvement in working memory scores.
Here are our top tips for guiding or inspiring immersive play at home:
Use stories: Encourage recreations or retellings or your child’s favourite stories, and prompt challenges to their narratives; “How did Jim get to the desert island?” and “What if the dog didn’t find his bone?”
Provide dolls and puppets: These don’t have to be expensive or store-bought, they could be cut out of paper or made from socks. With characters to include in their stories, children can ascribe feelings and ideas to these ‘people’ and ‘animals,’ which builds on their interpersonal skills.
Create a prop box: It’s like having multiple worlds in a box, all you have to do is open the lid! By mixing clothing, decorations and other items from various mini worlds (think pirates, fairies, doctors or postmen) children can mix and match to make endless unique scenarios to explore.
Make time: Pretend play doesn’t fit nicely into twenty minute segments. No material, environment, or story can take the place of uninterrupted time to play and explore ideas. It’s ok to leave the living room as a post office for a day or so to allow children to fully immerse themselves in that world.
At Komorabi, we have created our first ever do-it-yourself immersive game for you to build in the comfort of your own home. Using everyday items – “that old rug? Nope, it’s a shark infested sea!” we guide you through setting up a pirate adventure for your mini explorers.
Our game is designed for children aged 8 – 14, which is Key Stage 1 and 2, but we predict that older siblings will want to get involved too! In keeping with the Komorabi ethos of Do Good Have Fun, we have built in bite-sized good deed challenges, because why not share a little kindness too?