Imaginative play is how children explore and consolidate the things they learn in real life. Whether dressing up as doctors and nurses, holding a tea party for their teddies or getting lost in a castle or other small world setting, children using their imagination to play are in fact engaged in deep thought, processing the ideas, concepts, relationships and risks they come across in real life. Role play is one of the best ways to support imaginative play. Avoid pre-bought fancy dress outfits which usually reduce the capacity for imagination because the character is already established. Keeping a box of fabrics and other props lets children determine the type of character for themselves. In small world play, children can use play figures and animals, soft toys and other props like castles or forests to create their own stories in contained settings. Fairytales are a great way to inform this kind of play, as the characters often reflect important human themes such as kindness or deception, and can be re-imagined in any number of new stories. At night time, shadow puppets make a wonderfully atmospheric alternative.