Use Your Imagination

Thinking creatively comes naturally to many children, whether it’s through making up new play scenarios or seeing things from a different point of view. Encourage this creative thinking through fun, imaginative play and exploration.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is pretend-play.jpg

JUST PLAY PRETEND

Playing pretend can take on many forms. Ordinary objects can become magical, children can become anything from doctors to firefighters to puppies, and a room can be transformed into just about anywhere. Gather some random objects and turn them into something else. You can ask your child what he thinks they are, or make suggestions yourself. Then turn those new objects into a scenario for pretend play. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • A paper towel tube can be turned into a sword – now the brave knight must find and slay the dragon!
  • A piece of paper can be rolled into a cone, taped, then placed on your head to become a hat – are you a princess in need of rescuing? Maybe it’s a birthday hat?
  • A towel can be wrapped around an arm and then tied behind a neck to become a sling – now your child must become a doctor and give you a checkup to make sure it’s ok.
  • That same towel can be turned into a cape – superhero to the rescue! Who needs saving?
  • A pencil can become a magic wand – perhaps your child is now a fairy flitting through the forest? Or a magician performing on stage?

See what else your child can gather and turn into extraordinary objects. To encourage ongoing or repeat pretend play, consider putting together boxes or setting aside areas in your home for different scenarios. For example, my daughter wants to be a vet, so I gathered band-aids, bandage wraps, cotton swabs, etc. so she could be a doctor to her stuffed animals. Another favorite is to take empty food packages, such as boxes of cereal or pasta, taping them closed, and setting them up to create a “store.”

MAKE SUPPLY SETS

For impromptu creativity any time, put together some supply sets using items around the house or items you’ve accumulated through your collecting. You can store each set in a shoebox or other container to make it easy to grab and go. Anything can be used, so don’t worry if you don’t have a specific item or supply. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Art supplies – gather paper, scissors, crayons, glue, glitter, pipe cleaners, etc. to encourage creating.
  • Tinker supplies – gather rubber bands, paper clips, corks, clothespins, cotton swabs, craft sticks, etc. Add some scissors and glue or tape.
  • Building supplies – gather whatever building materials you have, whether that’s LEGOs, tinker toys, wooden blocks, or recycled items.
  • Dress-up supplies – gather assorted clothing items, scarves, hats, costume jewelry, etc. Be sure to add any masks, wands, etc. that your child may have made in school or during pretend play.
  • Book-making supplies – blank or lined paper, writing utensils (pens, pencils, markers, etc.), writing prompts, stapler for putting pages together

Just having the items together and easily accessible can encourage children to be creative.

MAKE UP STORIES

Look around and pick an object, then make up a story with your child. That teddy bear is sad because his best friend moved away. But he doesn’t know that a new friend is coming to play with him! Who can be his new friend? What are they going to do together? This activity can be great when enjoying nature, too. Fallen logs, animal burrows, and streams can be great sources of inspiration. Or do some old-fashioned creativity by lying on your backs and looking for shapes in the clouds.



How else can you encourage your child to use her imagination?

Become a Collector

No one wants random items cluttering up their home, but collecting the right items can actually bring joy – during the collecting and whenever the collection is viewed.

CREATIVE COLLECTING

Toys and art supplies don’t need to be expensive. In fact, you can collect items that would normally be thrown away and turn them into all kinds of amazing creations. Websites abound that invite you to turn trash into treasure, or you can just put a pile in front of your child and see what they do! Some favorite items to hold onto are:

  • Cardboard tubes (toilet paper, paper towel, gift wrap, aluminum foil, etc.)
  • Egg cartons
  • Plastic bottles (soda, water, seltzer, ketchup, pancake syrup, etc.)
  • Jars or containers (especially if the labels come off! pasta sauce, jelly, frosting, etc.)
  • Clamshell containers (from fruit, baked goods, etc.)
  • Empty cardboard food packages (if clean – great for closing up for a pretend “store”)

Make sure they’re clean, then just throw it all in a large box or container and tuck it out of sight when not in use. These items can be used in art projects or pretend play, and the only limit is your child’s imagination!

THEMED MEMENTOS

As you travel the state in search of fun activities, pick up a memento of each place. These can be natural items, such as a small stone or shell, or simple man-made items such as business cards or pens. Find a way to display your collection as a reminder of places you’ve been (a simple, clear vase works well). Memories will come flooding back every time you see it. You can even turn your collected items into a craft project, such as a picture frame or collage, or you can put them together in a shadowbox or scrapbook.

THEMED PICTURES

While you’re travelling around, you can also challenge your family to add to the fun! Then be sure to take pictures to commemorate the experiences. Some challenge examples:

  • Take your picture in front of every natural waterfall in the state.
  • See how many different playgrounds your child can swing at – and take a picture at each one.
  • Have your family match their outfits (by color or a particular article of clothing).
  • Bring a favorite toy or stuffed animal with you, and take pictures of that toy in new situations (an old friend does this, and his stuffed basketball has met some pretty famous people!)
  • Look for a particular something at each place. Maybe an interesting shadow, or a unique leaf. Make it the same something at each place for an enchanting collection.
  • Find interesting backgrounds and add your family. For extra fun (depending on your family’s personalities), you can opt to challenge them to be as silly as possible, as serious as possible (no smiling!), or see how much they can “ruin” the shot.

Once you’ve collected several pictures, start an album on Facebook, put them into a digital photo frame that rotates the pictures, or print them out and hang them on your wall. You’ll smile when you see them – and they may motivate you to go even further!

Sky’s the limit! What will you collect?

Open Your Eyes

Sometimes the greatest fun can be had when we look at things in a different way. Whether we’re searching for something or changing our perspective, opening our eyes can show us new beauty and spark our imaginations.

START WITH A SCAVENGER HUNT

Challenge your family to be more observant with a scavenger hunt! Here are some ideas both in and out of your home:

PLAY THE UP CLOSE GAME

Have you ever seen something really magnified? It can be hard to figure out what it is. Try this with your family. Take a picture of something really really close up, so you can only see part of the item. Then challenge them to guess what it is! This game can be lots of fun with family and friends who don’t live with you, too.

USE YOUR IMAGINATION

Find new uses for household items. Perhaps that paper towel tube is now a sword, and you’re a knight defending his kingdom! Maybe that towel is really a cape, and you’re a superhero flying overhead. Challenge your family to come up with the most creative, interesting uses for items around your home. Then use them to roleplay a fun story together.

MAKE SOMETHING WITHOUT INSTRUCTIONS

Gather a bunch of creating supplies. These can be recycled items, nature items, craft supplies, or building blocks – anything you have on hand that could be used to make something. Then make something! The idea, however, is to not have any kind of instructions or plans when you start building. Just see where the creative process takes you. To make it more of a challenge (and encourage less planning), set a timer. What can you build in 10 minutes? 5 minutes? 1 minute??

Once you’ve created your items, explain what they are to each other. You’d be amazed what simple items can become!

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

Ah, spring! Warmer weather, sunny days (sometimes, anyway!), and animals out of hibernation. Many times it feels like we’ve been hibernating, too, waiting for happier days to arrive and the pandemic to end. Fortunately with spring come more opportunities to get outside, get active, and enjoy the world around us.

Start a Garden

As the weather warms up, now is the perfect time to get a garden started. To keep things free, use these tips:

Take a Walk, Snag a Book

In addition to town libraries, Little Free Libraries have popped up in even greater quantities since the pandemic began. Take a walk in your neighborhood or other nearby areas and stop at one of these boxes. They are filled with free books to share. Take a book to add to your reading pile or add extra books from your own collection to the little library to share! To find a Little Free Library in your area (or an area you’d like to visit), head to their website. As an added bonus, you’ll be getting some exercise and enjoying the fresh air!

Enjoy an Event

As new events are added to the calendar, there seems to be a trend: activities are moving away from virtual and back to in-person. While most of these events are limited to outdoor options, it will be nice to see people in real life, rather than on a screen. To check out the latest additions, head to the Events calendar. Be sure to follow all mask and social distancing guidelines as indicated.

Head Outside

Don’t forget that the classics still apply: take a hike, head to a playground, or go for a walk. Enjoy the great outdoors and have fun with nature! Check out the tabs above for more ideas.