Giving children time and space to play is one of the most important things parents can do, according to an expert on children's development and play.
Professor Karen Stagnitti, an associate professor at Deakin University in Melbourne and developer of the Child-Initiated Pretend Play Assessment tool, visited Bomaderry last week to speak to parents about how make-believe games are related to development.
The workshop, organised by children's charity Noah's Shoalhaven, covered topics such as the development of play, working with children to increase their ability to play and how imaginative and social play can benefit children with autism.
"As a parent, the main things are to provide lots of different objects and give them time," Professor Stagnitti said.
"Children need time to develop their play because it's a lot of planning and thinking, so give them time to do that, give them a space and lots of different interesting objects."
Play might not look important, but Professor Stagnitti said the links between imaginary play and language, literacy and social development had long been noted, and there was a "groundswell" of teachers keen to incorporate it into lessons.
"It's the playing out [of] social situations, what they've experienced and fictional stories that embed all this language in a meaningful story for [children]," she said.
"If you're teaching a child to write 'a' and that's all they're doing, it's just a rote skill that has no meaning to them, but to get them to write 'apple juice' because they're going shopping, then it's a different level of engagement."
Early childhood teacher and event organiser Kerry Smith said about 100 parents and childhood educators, some travelling down from Sydney, attended the workshop.
"Play is so important and embedded in our learning, so it was just a great opportunity to bring a world-class speaker to our area."