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Imaginative play

Updated: Mar 26


Imaginative play


I had said how I would speak more about this topic and our journey. We will also talk about ritualistic play in future posts.


But playing & engaging with toys has always be seen as a milestone.

One thing that normally is asked is “imaginative play” can you child play with toys in an imaginative way? Something we take for granted that all children would do.


When Harry was younger, he didn’t care much for the generic toys. He preferred spinning & flashy light up things, for a while he really liked wheels especially his pram ones, and he liked to figure out how toys worked. He would like to pull them apart and reassemble them.

I remember on his autism assessment he pulled the bubble machine apart and put it back together. The neurologist asked me “is this his typical behaviour” to which I replied yes and chuckled. Because it was our “normal” form of play but I could tell by how they were scribbling onto paper it wasn’t “typical behaviour”. But it was one I loved.


There was two neurologists assessing him, they must of gone through so many different toys and objects to catch his gaze but he didn’t care for them. One remark that hurt me most on his papers was “Harry seemed to show no enjoyment in the present”

Harry till the age of 4 was expressionless, that was until a switch flipped in me to stop buying meaningless junk and start to enjoy the world on his level. It was then I started to see the “enjoyment” he got from things that could easily be missed by others.


He hated the role play toys, to him why make something in a fake toy kitchen. Why have a till that doesn’t work. He always looked perplex when he encountered these things and once he said to me “no no no” and I knew that he didn’t like these toys all they did was agitate him. This made toddler groups hard because the room was always full of these toys.

I use to look around the room and see all the children using them and people use to ask me why he isn’t joining in. I’ll be honest a few times I said he was “shy” just to take focus away. Because being shy seemed more of a plausible explanation to some, rather then my child just didn’t like “playing”.


One thing I hadn’t anticipated is how hard it wound be for him to socialise, when you do not do imaginative play. For a child who struggled with emotions, it should of been no surprise to me that he would struggle with imaginative play, because you take on a different character when you imaginative play. But if you cannot understand emotions, how can you act out different things?


This made nursery really difficult for Harry, because that’s all the children wanted to do. So he would solitary play a lot, usually with building blocks or cars or trains. Something that didn’t require any role play.

Something that would do what’s it’s meant to do. Blocks build & toy cars drive along & trains run along the toy tracks. It’s simple but that’s what he loved.


So when lockdown came I focused on basic emotions, and he started to reciprocate on his toy figures. Usually with his Numberblocks he would say “Numberblocks one is sad boohoo” it was a start. And I knew it would take time but he would get there with it all.


Harrys 6 now, but is probably a year & half behind his peers when it comes to playing. So now he is doing things that he maybe should of been doing in reception, so there still is a divide between him and his peers. Because they have “grown out” of that play. Which is hard going for Harry. Plus he doesn’t have any interest in the latest toys or games. So talking to his peers is tricky too, because he doesn’t have much common ground.


But this also means he is quite easily lead to at times, because he is discovering playing and can make him do as others say to just feel “apart” of it all.


This is another thing that isn’t spoken about much, but sure is a tricky one to navigate and causes alot of upset in our house. I wished someone would of told me not to worry about “imaginative play” when I was starting the journey with Harry. Because I see that actually he was more happier & carefree when he didn’t have to worry about these things. But now socialising & playing is his biggest struggle, and one that causes me the most heartache. ❤️

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