The aim of this paper is to weigh the empirical and hypothetical evidence to assess the claim that imaginative play supports the acquisition and development of social and emotional competence. We analyse children’s play and social skills using a development-based perspective. On this basis, we describe the developmental trajectories of imaginative play and the components of socio-emotional competence during childhood, especially in the pre-school period. In addition, we review the research literature on the possible link between imaginative play and creativity in children, and on how this type of play is predictive of later life creativity. Finally, we discuss hypothetical mechanisms that may account for the relationship between imaginative play and social competence in the preschool years and beyond.