Early Years settings put a lot of faith into resources such as toys, costumes, and role play areas, to engage children in imaginative play – but this could actually be limiting children’s imaginations and therefore limiting potential learning outcomes (not to mention wasting time/money). Let me illlustrate...

I’d like you to imagine that we’re going to a fancy dress party together. We go to the biggest costume shop in the world. First of all, decide what or who you are going to dress up as…you can literally be anyone or anything; a film star, an opera singer, a character from a book, a banana or an elf…any costume your heart desires is here waiting for you.

Now you know who or what you want to be, pick the costume off the rail, and put it on.

There’s an enormous mirror in this shop - take a look at yourself. What does your costume look like? What colour is it? What materials is it made from and are they soft, scratchy, heavy, or floaty? Does your costume come with any (imaginary!) accessories or props? Maybe a hat, some glasses, a wand, or a bag? Are you wearing shoes, boots, gladiator sandals or flippers? Try to imagine it in as much detail as possible.

And finally, how does wearing this costume make you feel? Powerful, brave, glamorous, beautiful, or something else?

If I tell you what I’m going as, you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be the same as you (in case you’re interested, I’m going as Cookie Monster. My costume is bright blue, fluffy, a bit tickly, and comes with a jar of cookies. It makes me feel mischievous). Even if we did by chance decide to go as the same character – let’s say a princess because we know how popular a choice that is! – do you think our costumes would look the same? It’s impossible. Because what I imagine, is never going to be the same as what you imagine.

Now think about the dressing up box in the corner of your early years’ classroom. Maybe there’s one pirate outfit, a chef, a doctor and yes, that popular princess dress – all of which only one child at any one time can wear. Not only does this easily lead to disappointment and frustration, but real costumes get broken, stained, ripped and most importantly, the sparkly dress in your dressing up box, is never as sparkly as the one in your child’s imagination.

We’re not saying there’s no place in early years practice for a dressing up box, or a role play area for that matter, but what we are saying is that these things have the potential to limit a child’s imagination. If we invest all our time, money and efforts into this type of play, we are missing out on enormous opportunities for learning and growth.

With truly imaginative play (the Pyjama Drama way!), there are no resources to invest in – just the power of the imagination, and if you harness this, children can be anyone, go anywhere, do anything, and learn so much – all in the safe and supportive environment of the classroom.

We can show you how! Take a look at our award-winning CPS training: https://www.pyjamadrama.com/training-and-resources