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BLOS unravels: imagination in children

icoon-kalender-tekengebied-2.png 7 July 2022
icoon-klokje 2 minutes


Children have vivid imaginations and are great at coming up with their own stories. They can turn a box into a pirate ship, and they make delicious pastries from water and sand. Children can greatly enjoy their own imagination, but it also helps with their development. How? You can read that in this BLOS unravels.

What is imagination?

Imagination is the art of making things up. It is an important skill that allows children to process all kinds of events. Children develop their imagination by playing freely, without (too much) guidance or direction from an adult.

Imagination at different ages

1 year

Imagination appears during their first year in the form of 'pretending'. One-year-old children like to imitate people around them. They also want to drink coffee, call grandpa, vacuum and cook food. They understand that you can think of things and pretend. It is, at this point, mainly the imitation of behaviour that they see around them.

1.5 years

Children from 1.5 years onward increasingly start to use their imagination to come up with things that are not realistic or do not exist. They discover an imaginary world in which anything is possible and they are in charge. Starting at about 2.5 years children can put their imagination into words.

3 to 6 years

In young children between the ages of 3 and 6, fantasy and reality are often still mixed up. We call this magical thinking. Children in this phase have trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. For example, your child may be afraid that they will wash down the drain in the bath or fear monsters under their bed. Is your child afraid of monsters under the bed? In this article, you can read how to scare them away.

6 years and older

Children from the age of 6 and onward are increasingly able to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Of course, they will still use their imagination, but in a different manner. For instance, for having fun and coming up with creative and new solutions to problems.

Why is imagination important?

Fantasizing is fun, but it is also good for development. During their make-believe, children discover new things and learn to recognize different emotions. They practice with all kinds of skills and situations in a safe environment. For example, playing with social skills during 'school', 'shop' or 'father-and-mother'. Because your child plays the father at one time and the mother at another, they learn to empathise with another person and this develops their social insight and empathy. Children also process experiences from everyday life in their make-believe, such as an argument or witnessing a collision.

Tips to stimulate your child's imagination

You can stimulate your child's imagination in different ways. Below we will give you a few tips about how our pedagogical employees do this at the day care centre and the after school care centre.

Do nothing

It may sound weird, but you can actually stimulate your child's imagination by doing nothing. Give your child the space to play freely. In addition, try to ensure that your child does not always have a full agenda and therefore has the time to sometimes do nothing and be bored. By doing nothing, your child will start to use their imagination and that is good for flexibility and the ability to come up with solutions.


Encourage your child to draw freely. Drawing allows your child to express his or her creativity and to play with fantasy. Drawing is also one of the best ways for children to visualise the image in their mind. Ask your child during or after drawing to tell you the accompanying story.


Join the fun in your child's imaginary world. That's not only fun, but also strengthens your bond. For instance, if your child is playing doctor, you can pretend to be a patient with a broken arm. Let your child take the lead in his or her game and try not to give too many suggestions. This encourages your child to think for themselves and to use his or her imagination. By doing this, your child also learns to take charge and that is good for their self-confidence.

Reading aloud

Reading aloud is invaluable. It not only stimulates language development, but also stimulates imagination and curiosity. Your child learns to empathise with the lead character of the story and other characters in the book. For instance, read from a book without pictures. As your child does not see an image, it allows them to come up with this themselves. When reading from a picture book the opposite happens, and you can make up a story together with your child. Also fun for the imagination! In this article, you can read more about the importance of reading aloud.

Playing with open-ended toys

Open-ended toys are toys that allow your child to do a variety of things. The function of the toy isn't fixed, so your child can play with them in many different ways. Open-ended toys stimulate your child's imagination. One moment the wooden car can be a police car, and the next it can be a truck. 

Making and listening to music

Music engages a different part of the brain and therefore asks for a different kind of creativity. Making or listening to music not only increases imagination and creativity, but also has a positive effect on social skills and stimulates language development.

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