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.
How to Encourage Imaginative Play
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.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, storylines, and situations. They are such a great way for a child to role play.
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, like Trolls hair headbands, 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. 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.
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. 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.
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.
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!
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. 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.