5 Ways to Encourage Imaginative Play (And Get More Time for Yourself!)

Work-Life Balance on 08.02.11
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Photo Credit: Monica Rodgers

Yesterday my children came flying down the front stairs tilting their arms in different directions as they swooped and glided out the front door.  

"We are fairies who have special seeing powers and can sense danger over one hundred thousand miles away," they explained in passing.

"Wow- that's powerful", I thought.  

From the wee hours of the summer mornings I'm always thinking about ways to get my children started off into the land of imagination and avoid the temptation as the day progresses to just stick them in front of a movie because sometimes I JUST WANT TO GET SOMETHING DONE FOR ME!  If I'm patient it's amazing how they can get completely engrossed for hours into other worlds giving me exactly what I want... time to myself.  When this happens it's a win-win because while I get to return phone calls, do a little work, and regroup- they get to use their expansive minds solving the worlds problems while exercising their limbs and interacting with each other.  I've learned some tips along the way to help encourage kids in imaginative play:

Waldorf Table

Photo Credit: Monica Rodgers

<h2>1. Less is MORE:</h2> Re-work the toys offerings by putting away most of the toys from your child's view and leave them the visual space from which to "create."  Adults can certainly relate to how clutter can sabotage our ability to think clearly and it works the same way for kids.  

<h2>2. Keep it simple.</h2> Kids are more apt to be able to use props for their play if materials are simple and visually or sensorially pleasing. Try filling a basket with scarfs or play silks of many colors that kids can use - you'll be delighted by what they come up with.  Silks become costumes, wings, capes, fort drapes, tunnels, etc. Basic wooden blocks are a playroom favorite and can become vast cities for matchbox cars, bobble head dolls, or dollhouse dolls.  Another idea is to fill a basket with sheets and blankets and just allow them to fort build! 

<h2>3. Start an adventure.</h2> Pack them a "snack" or lunch wrapped in a silk  or some type of cloth and tied to the end of a stick, hobo style.  Draw them a treasure map so they can "pretend" to explore for treasure in the back yard or house.  Another favorite activity is to pack them an adventure "kit" with random things that they might "need".... Marbles = dragon tears, magnifying glass = magic finder, coins = treasure, string = use your imagination! and then put the kit in a "magic box" like a shoe box they can color or decorate.

<h2>4. Think like a kid to get them started.</h2> Why can't bobble heads Littlest Pet Shop (my eight year old's favorite) and matchbox cars just get along? Why can't a box be a spaceship, and then a race car, and then a market store counter? How bout bucket of water with food coloring and a real house paintbrush- kids love to think they are painting the house!

<h2>5. Let them get messy.</h2> Bakery play with mud and water outside can just create hours of amusement and PS: chillax about getting dirty! At the end of the play just walk them over to the hose and give them a good rinse before getting them in the tub. They will have a blast making mud pies, chocolate donuts and "stirring the batter" using buckets or old baking pans. Getting dirty is FUN!

Just remember that patience is the key when allowing kids to get into the rhythm of imaginative play. Stop hovering and just let them get into it and you'll be amazed at how much YOU time you get out of the deal!


Photo Credit: Monica Rodgers


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