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.
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?