Building Rocketships and Building Character – the Benefits of Imaginative and Collaborative Play

Tiny chefs creating elaborate rock and flower meals in an open-air kitchen.

Daring explorers hiking over formidable mountains and through rushing rivers.

Creative engineers building unique rocketships to send brave astronauts into space.

Each of these children is engaging in imaginative play – the kind of play wherein they role play and act out stories in an unstructured and open-ended way.  These scenarios can be based on things the child has experienced, or seen, or hopes to experience – the possibilities are truly infinite. And while some may shrug off imaginative play as the mere fancies of small children, in reality it plays a vital role in their cognitive, social, and emotional development. Check out just a few of its many benefits!

  • Imaginative play gives kids the chance to relax and simply “be kids.” Our children’s lives are full of many scheduled activities – school, homework, sports, music lessons, youth groups. Imaginative play gives them a chance to let go and engage with their creativity in an unscheduled way, where the goal is simply the play itself rather than the production of a finished product.
  • Imaginative play allows children to process confusing or new experiences. If you’ve ever watched a small group of children playing “doctor” line up to receive their “shots”, you’ve seen this in action.  Kids can work through many confusing and challenging personal events through the act of pretending.
  • Imaginative play can lead to an increase in kids’ use of language and in their ability to create multiple storylines, ideas, and points of view.

Beginning at a few years of age, most children start to engage in a form of play that often goes hand-in-hand with imaginative play – this is known as collaborative play.  Children engaged in this kind of collaboration play as part of a group, working together toward a common goal or within a shared scenario. Imaginative, collaborative play can hold many benefits for children, particularly in their social and emotional development.  Imaginative, collaborative play leads children to solve problems, cooperate, and utilize flexible thinking as it requires advanced thinking and social skills. Kids learn to:

  • Negotiate and consider another’s perspective.
  • Balance their own ideas with those of others as they learn to express their own thoughts and listen to those of their playmates.
  • Delay their own gratification.
  • Assign and accept tasks and roles in a way that fosters cooperation rather than antagonism.

These social and emotional benefits are huge! The way we interact with others is key in our life-long happiness and success. Knowing how to read social cues, how to take turns and negotiate, how to solve problems creatively and to the mutual benefit of all involved – these are certainly abilities we want our children to take with them into adulthood. Children who participate in this imaginative, collaborative play will be well equipped to engage creatively and cooperatively with the challenges they meet as they grow and mature.

Forts, Crayfish, and Crafts – Fostering Imaginative and Collaborative Play at Camp

So how does this happen at camp?

Camp Warner Park is the ideal scenario for kids to engage in imaginative, collaborative play – our programs are simple and unstructured for this very purpose. We are a small camp with small groups, so campers make friends quickly and our caring camp staff gets to know each child individually.  Without a set schedule imposed on them, children have the opportunity to direct their own activities and can truly engage in those activities for as long as their imagination desires. Campers can:

  • Play in the park
  • Hike
  • Explore the creek
  • Build forts
  • Create crafts
  • Play games
  • Sing songs
  • And so much more!

They have the time and the environment necessary to invent elaborate stories as they become daring explorers who must create a fort for shelter, or master crayfish-catchers, or prehistoric people learning to build a fire.

These child-directed activities allow kids to work together to decide what to do as they offer their own ideas, listen to the ideas of others, and compromise and take turns with one another.  Our caring camp counselors facilitate the group and provide encouragement, supervision, and safety.

Camp Warner Park is now offering enrollment for boys and girls ages 5-12. So get in touch today and give your child the gift of imagination and collaboration this summer!