The Importance of Imaginative Play

Those of you familiar with Chicago Children’s Museum know that we’re strong advocates of play. See our resident expert Tsivia Cohen’s past blog post on the topic.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics,

Play contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as the right of every child.


With the recent opening of our Forts exhibit, we’ve been thinking a lot about imaginative—or pretend—play, in particular, and its importance in developing young children’s social, language and problem-solving skills.

In an interview with the American Journal of Play, Dorothy and Jerome Singer, experts in the field of imaginative play, explained why make-believe play is so important for children.

Pretend play is the act of creativity. The child engaged in pre-tend play is engaged in what Piaget called ludic play. She’s playing a game, and by taking a piece of mud and pretending that it’s a birthday cake and putting candles on it, she’s using her imagination. She is differentiating between what is real and what is not real. She knows that this is mud she’s playing with, but it becomes the cake. She knows that a broom is something that you sweep the floor with, but when she wants it to be a horse and rides it, then in her imagination it’s really not a broom but a horse.

At first glance, Forts is a large, bright room filled with usual—and not-so-usual—fort-making materials. But it’s much more than that. Specially designed by CCM’s in-house education and exhibit experts, Forts is a rich, immersive environment that inspires imaginative play in children of all ages—and quite a few adults!


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