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Learning Laboratory: Imaginary games

Playing in a lean-to built from pruned tree branches

Imaginary games are my all-time favorite childhood pastime, but they are nearly impossible to capture on film. For example, I’ll try to capture Lily pretending to be an airplane, and all I get is this:

Lily pretends to be an airplane by balancing on a stool

Most of the time I don’t even try, because sometimes I pull out my camera and destroy the magic of their game by disrupting its flow. That’s the last thing I want to do! Once they get a plot line going, they play for hours on end – without fighting, whining, or crying. They learn to narrate a story, collaborate, lead, and how to solve problems. And they apply knowledge they are gaining in other areas.

Take that top photo, for instance. Mike was pruning our trees, and the kids used the branches to create a lean-to. I’m sure you noticed Johnny, but Emma is there too. She is simply camouflaged, as she explained – remembering our recent lesson on the topic!

MaryAnne lives is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

8 thoughts on “Learning Laboratory: Imaginary games”

  1. I often worry and know that I have ruined some moments because of my quickness in grabbing the camera. You are so good to not destroy these moments!

    My kids love making lean-to’s at my mom’s house! I love the pictures in this post of all the kids, even though Emma is camouflaged:-).
    .-= Susana´s last blog ..Knot So Fast =-.

  2. My son is just getting into imaginary play now, and I agree that it is a lot of fun! It makes for very frugal entertainment. And it is really helpful when we are waiting places. Just today at a restaurant, where he’d normally be antsy and running all over the place while we waited for our friend to show up, he was quite happy to make me a pretend cup of coffee for 5 minutes. I am very excited for him to have a companion to do it with in a year or two. :)
    .-= lynn´s last blog ..Homophones- Homonyms- and Knock Knock Jokes for the Pre-K-Kindergarten Set =-.

  3. I think this is the best part about having siblings or close playmates – all the imaginary fun that they can have together without spending too much time getting to know each other. I love to see Anna engrossed in her pretend play – she is so cute.
    .-= Natalie´s last blog ..CSN Stores Giveaway – 100 =-.

  4. Elisa | blissfulE

    Emma’s added an extra dimension to her camouflage, using Johnny as a decoy in case someone was searching for her. :) I love how Lily is pretending, too! What a great airplane she is!!

    You’re right – it’s impossible to capture pictures of imaginative play since the magic is all in their heads. It does keep them so engrossed, and resourceful with the items they have on hand to use as props, as well as with making sure everyone is happy so that the fun can continue.
    .-= Elisa | blissfulE´s last blog ..I fought the lawn =-.

    @Elisa – I hadn’t even though about that Emma adding in the decoy – how clever of her =)
    And the DESIRE to find ways to keep everyone happy is one of the many wonderful aspects of imaginary play for children, isn’t it?

  5. I love to take photos, but I also draw the line at imaginary play as photos do disrupt the flow. I would love to get a photo of the set up that Savvy has going on during her rest time – she usually makes a little cubby and has some of her toys as characters for her storylines.

    I had a good chuckle today while I was feeding Taleea and overheard Savvy during her rest time making up a story. She had Rumpelstiltskin talking to Julia Gillard (our Prime Minister).

    Emma certainly is very well camouflaged in that photo. Gotta love when you hear your children incorporate a concept, or word, that they recently learnt.
    .-= Elise´s last blog ..Let There Be Sticky Tape And Heaps Of It =-.

    @Elise – Rumpelstiltskin talking to the Prime Minister – how fabulous! Imaginary Play is so wonderful!

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