How to Encourage Imaginative Play in Your Child

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I have twin four year-olds who know how to play and imagine. And I absolutely love it. It is such an important part of childhood. Acting out different situations, expressing different emotions, trying to empathize, and doing bigger and awesomer things. And there are definitely somethings you can do, as a parent, grandparent, or caregiver, to encourage imaginative play in your child.Love these 8 ways to encourage imaginative play in kids! It's so important!

How to Encourage Imaginative Play

1. Costumes

Life is better in costume. And so is a child’s play. Allowing your child to dress up in fun costumes all year long, and not just at Halloween, is such a great way to encourage an imagination in your child.

Because, here’s the thing about the clothes and “uniforms” or “costumes” we each wear every day: they set the stage and help us perform better. From our comfy PJ’s to the formal shirt and tie, to leotards and dance shoes, to workout clothes and running shoes, what we wear puts us in certain moods, certain mindsets, and ready for whatever it is we need accomplish next. No matter what age, wearing a different costume or outfit, even for a day, is fun and exciting! It’s why moms look forward to that glamorous date night out. It’s why kids love to play dress up. And it’s why Halloween is fun for everyone.If you want to encourage imaginative play in a kid, get them a costume!! Costumes help your child role play, as he embodies different characters and brings his imagination to life. And costumes are just fun! They’re different from our everyday clothes, and can transport you back in time, forward in time, into other dimensions, story lines, and situations. They are such a great way for a child to role play. With fun costumes, they can become doctors, bugs, pirates, explorers, animals, princesses, zombies, monsters, witches, or super heroes.

Make sure to get a costume or two for your child’s independent play time so they can pretend. BuyCostumes.com has costumes and accessories, and new items are added each week! And you can generally find a coupon code to save even more. BuyCostumes.com has the hottest costumes at the best prices.

2. Props & Household Items

Having items to play and pretend with is pretty important. However, I want to emphasize that it doesn’t really matter what the objects are. Because even a plastic corn on the cob can become a telephone. Actually, even my child’s shoe has been known to come to life. You do NOT need to have every sort of imaginative play thing for your child to have an imagination or to enjoy playing pretend. It's SO true! Kids don't really need toys to pretend and imagine!My girls have so very few toys, and still imagine most of the day away. A few props, whether plastic, or from our very own home, is suffice for sparking new conversations. My kids love playing with cups, pots and pans, old cell phones, baby dolls, money (coins), beach towels, chairs, notebooks, pens, etc.

3. Less Electronics

My girls have not had their own tablets, pads, phones, or TVs. They don’t need to fill voids with a screen. And the less time with screens, the more they have to rely upon themselves (or you), for entertainment. In fact, my kids don’t even really know what the word “bored” means, as they have never once told me they are bored. They find something to fill the void on their own. With less screens, and more open-ended, unstructured time, they will be able to imagine for themselves.

4. Playmates

I’m at the distinct advantage of having twins. Seriously, one of the biggest pros of having twins, in my book, is that they have always, always, had each other to play with! I haven’t had to fill that need. They have each other. And as they are my oldest, it has always been this way.  Life is better in costume, especially with friends and playmates! I love encouraging imaginative play in my kids.Having another like-minded child to play with your child, is awesome, and adds flavor and variety to your child’s imaginative play time, because that child comes from a different home where they may do things different, say things differently, and play differently. It forces your child to adapt (or assert themselves more), and can open up new play possibilities.

5. Movies

Okay. I know. I just got done saying that less electronics help with imaginative play, so why am I listing movies as a way to help their imagination? Because, they do. Movies open up different worlds, fantasy creatures, super powers, unique names, thrilling stories, and wonderful music. I credit watching Anime movies with helping my girls create very interesting names for people and themselves as they play. I credit princess movies for helping my girls love frilly dresses, crowns, princes, dragons, castles, and even weddings and happily ever afters. I credit super hero movies for their love of capes, special powers, and dressing up in costumes. I even credit movies for helping them with story-lines to their play.

6. Storytelling

And that is because movies are really a great, visual storytelling. We love doing storytelling in our home, and my girls love telling us their stories and hearing us tell new ones! Creating a story, or trying to retell a classic, is a great way to encourage an imagination in your child! It makes them think on the spot, as well as put things into context and a linear path. So great for so many things!

7. Life

The greatest influence on their play is real life. They really just want to play life. They want to go grocery shopping, buy things with money, talk on the phone to Grandpa, cook an awesome dessert, and even clean up after themselves. They want to recreate “adult” life in their child play. It’s why little kids love baby dolls – they can care for them, just like Mommies and Daddies do. My girls have even lifted up their shirts to “breastfeed” their baby dolls. And they practice disciplining their toys/dolls, but also comforting them if they get hurt of sick, and cleaning up after them, and potty training them! The world we live in is very full of everyday narratives and stories. Kids often really just want to pretend they are older, and doing the things they see you do!

8. Playing with Mom and Dad

And of course, as a parent or caregiver, you can help foster creativity and imagination.  If you can pretend that a cucumber is actually a sword, chances are your kid can too. If you can pretend to be a roaring lion, then chances are your daughter will too. If you can say you are a cowboy who lives on the moon and your name is Baka-Baka, then chances are your son will be able to do something similar. As parents we can definitely help or hurt our child's imaginative play! I hope I'm encouraging it!Kids want to show of their imagination to their parents and friends. They want you to laugh about their funny name, ooh over their beautiful costumes, and joke about their doll making a mess while potty training. You kids are looking to you for the approval to be creative and pretend things aren’t as they appear to be. So, don’t shut them down, or say, “No, a cucumber is not a telephone. Stop being foolish!” or something like that. If you keep shutting down their pretend play, they’ll stop pretending. Foster their creativity, and allow them space, room, toys, and even access to common household objects so that they can play. They won’t have this level of creativity and imagination forever. Let it thrive when they are little, and you’ll be thankful later.

I love hearing my kids play.  I love that it gives me a glimpse into their world and how they perceive things, and what things they are actually picking up when I talk, or from movies they watch. I want to encourage them to have an imagination, wild and free, for as long as possible. Children are meant to imagine!

So, tell me, how do you encourage your child to play, pretend, and imagine?

This post is sponsored by BuyCostumes and includes my affiliate links.

 

Comments

  1. says

    This is such a great post. I especially loved that you included movies as a part of imaginative play. I was a nanny for a 4 y/o girl who loved the movie Tangled. At the time I had not seen it, but she talked about it every once in a while. One day we were playing a puzzle game, when she stands up, puts her hands behind her back in a very sinister way, and looks me straight in the eye and says “Who are you, and how did you find me?” And me, completely flabbergasted and a bit freaked out responded with, “Uhm… I’m Megan, and I know where you live? … ‘Cause your mom lets me come here?” And she repeated the question and I repeated my answer, and she informed me that I was not doing it right, and that my response was not what Flynn Rider had said in the movie. And I said, “Ohhhhhhh, are we playing Tangled now?” And she rolled her eyes, pursed her lips, and put her hands on her hips. She didn’t say anything after that, but I knew that it was a “Duh, we are playing Tangled, how daft are you?” Anyway 🙂 It was actually one of my favorite moments from watching her because it just goes to show how important imaginative playing is.

  2. says

    Katelyn,

    This post and your photos are so much fun! (and yes, to answer your question you ARE on my list!) =) Imaginative play is funny, because I am definitely guilty of relying too much on screen time to keep my kids occupied, but sometimes the kids really can’t help themselves!

    When I feel like things are getting a little stale, I find that getting outside makes a huge difference. I wish the weather permitted it to go outside every day because heaven knows they need it!

    I’ll make sure to pin.

    Brittany

    • says

      Getting outside is SO awesome for kids. I would love to own a place with a huge yard someday where they have no excuse not to get out and play! Grateful for the new place we live though.

  3. says

    Katelyn, these are great ideas. Imaginative play isn’t my favorite thing to do with my little ones, but my youngest is so imaginative that I want to encourage that. These are great ideas. You are the kind of mom that I know ‘gets down on the floor’ with her kiddos. So great. I can learn from you.

    • says

      Elizabeth I am the kind of mom that gets down on the floor! For sure. I mean not all the time, but I certainly let my kids climb all over my back and gives piggy back rides, and chase them. It can be awkward (and not super fun) as an adult to play pretend. I can understand why it isn’t your favorite thing to do. It’s not mine either. But, I love the way my kid’s eyes light up when I really get into playing and pretending with them. They think it’s awesome and they love me even more for it. Good luck!

  4. says

    Great list. I think the more electronics our kids have access too, the less imagination they have. I think that is true for things like recess and less free time too. Our kids are over scheduled and over stimulated. They need time to just be kids.

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