Looking for ways to jump start your child’s imaginative play? Imaginative play is important for children and their social and emotional development. The research reviewed by Berk, Mann & Ogan, (2006) and Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer (2009) suggest that make-believe games are forerunners of the important capacity for forms of self-regulationincluding reduced aggression, delay of gratification, civility, and empathy. When children use toys to introduce possible scenarios or friends, the representation of multiple perspectives occurs naturally. Taking on different roles allows children the unique opportunity to learn social skills such as communication, problem solving, and empathy (Hughes, 1999).
Encouraging imaginative play is so important to me as a parent and former teacher. Living in a world that is full of instant gratification, video games, and fidget spinners it is easy to forget to USE your imagination with so much stimulation that already exists around us.
I love this picture of my Dad when he was only five years old. It was a Christmas he remembers well, 1957, when he received his first hickory bow (which he still owns), and his first wagon. He would spend hours exploring the outdoors with the wagon and bow. I was so excited to connect the same type of memories with my kids and the love of the outdoors with their very own radio flyer.
So when I heard that it was Radio Flyer’s 100 year celebration this year I was so excited to share in the fun. Radio Flyer was started by Antonio Pasin in 1917, who’s dream it was to, “bring joy to every boy and every girl.” What a legacy he has left behind him with trails of smiles and adventurous tales of fun. Radio Flyer is committed to innovative design as they have progressed through the years with wagons, tricycles, pre-school scooters, and other ride ons. As a mother of four, I was personally excited about the new EZ fold Wagon with canopy that we take with us to baseball games, soccer games, the amusement park, and our trips to the lake.
We love spending time outdoors as a family and love the versatility of the foldable wagon that can easily fit in the trunk of our car and still have the ability to carry a couple of children and all of our things! I love that this wagon can also turn into a bench and the tires are sturdy enough to go over bumps and trails. This is a fun way to take a peek into his childhood that I hadn’t considered before. The radio flyer brought it all back when he saw this picture and shared the memories with me.
My favorite thing about the Summer is the chance to have lazy, creative days. One of my favorite places to take the kids for the afternoon is a local, man made lake that is near our home. The kids love to explore the open air and admire nature as it changes in our special spot. There are a few things that I always keep handy on our travels that encourage imaginative play.
11 Ways to Encourage Imaginative Play:
….and then read some more. Read, read read! Reading is a great way to enrich your child’s imagination. I talk about reading all the time on the blog and how important reading to your child really is. Read this post on tips for reading to your children and then make it a habit. There are many benefits to reading to your child, but as far as their imaginations go they can be anything they want to be. They can be a pirate, a dinosaur, a wizard or very hungry caterpillar. Books take you away to a different magical places all while sitting in your own home. Here is a list of our favorite picture books for kids.
Something about slipping into a costume helps you slip into your character so much easier! I love to leave the Halloween costumes available for the kids all year round so they have access to them and can turn into Spiderman on a Tuesday. Looking for more dress up tips? Find DIY tricks here.
Props don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. My favorite thing as a child was a fitted sheet on my head so I could become Rapunzel with long flowy hair. A towel can become a cape, empty paper towel rolls can be a telescope for a pirate or explorer and boxes (oh, how we love boxes!) can become space ships, castles, race cars or submarines (to name a few).
Dress ups and costumes are also fun props, but they don’t have to look like one specific character. They are fun, and great for imagination too, but keep the dress up items simple and see your child put together a new character all their own. I like to find random things here and there at thrift stores or yard sales to add to a dress up box.
Add a simple crown and a flower to the day and you are a princess in her royal carriage. Jayne loves to be a pretty princess in almost every scenario.
LIMIT SCREEN TIME
I know it is tempting to throw a tablet at a bored child or put them in front of the TV when you need a virtual babysitter. I get it, I really do. I have used our TV so I can have a moment to myself, but the key is moderation AND watch with your child. You can talk about what they are watching and it’s fun to see their reactions to what they’re watching. It will also help ensure that they don’t end up vegging in front of the TV for hours.
When you head out the door, especially in the summer time, make sure to pack lots of drinks and snacks. Even when kids tell you they aren’t hungry or thirsty, that can change in a matter of minutes. I will try my best to keep some extra things in the car just in case. I have found that when kids are fed they are much more excited about getting out and exploring. They have the energy they need to get outside and have some fun.
DON’T GIVE RULES WHEN DOING ART PROJECTS
I like to let my children lead the way with their own art projects as stated above, but occasionally it is fun to do a fun craft with your child. We love these creative art projects and these under the sea inspired crafts, but just make sure that even though you are providing the materials for a craft you don’t give any rules. You let them choose the colors and if there are pieces of different materials to glue together, let the child do it! It might not look perfect, but it will look like the child thinks it should.
USE YOUR HANDS
Anything that engages your child’s hands will engage your child’s mind. This is why fidget spinners are ALL THE RAGE. Kids love to keep their hands busy and there are so many ways to explore the world when you get the hands involved. Make something from recycled goods, paint, build legos, create a fort, make art using bottle caps. Find 23 fun easy ideas of ways to use your hands through creative play.
Invite friends over to play
My children come to life in a way I have a hard time explaining when they are playing with a trusted friend. Everything becomes 10 times more exciting when a friend comes over to play and they can rediscover their toys together. It also invites the opportunity to create in new social spheres where they can practice sharing, role playing, and teamwork.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE MESS
I am of the opinion that if kids are getting messy, chances are they are learning too. I love when my kids go outside and come back a mess. Childhood is so short and it feels like in this day and age they grow up even quicker than before. Don’t worry about the muddy feet, train them to hose off before they come inside if you need to! 🙂
GET YOUR PETS INVOLVED:
My kids love to include our dog, Poppy, with their imaginative play. He has been a wolf, lion, cheetah, and dragon. The kids love having him join in on the fun.
Last night my kids were playing with their hermit crabs and pretending that they were in a race. They used a cup to play “the announcer” and even had a special cardboard box that they marked the start and finish line. I love that they came up with this all on their own.
Choose the right toys
Start play out right by finding toys that are open for interpretation! This could be blocks, play dough, figurines, dolls, barbies, cars, race ways, etc. If your child loves to role play you may want to invest in dress ups, pretend food, or items that they show particular interest in that isn’t found in the toy aisle. One of our favorite new toys is Oball’s new collection of Go Grippers! My son is obsessed with a race track that is at Grandma’s house and I have been on the lookout for a raceway that would be easy for him to manage and not take up a big amount of space when set up. I liked the one she had at home but it was really small, but I didn’t want to go too big because I don’t like the hot wheel tracks that take up an entire room when set up.
Typically the best toys for kids imaginations are those that do not require batteries! You can find an awesome list here.
We love our Radio Flyer 3-in-1 EZ Fold Wagon with Canopy because it can hold all of our toys and snacks when we are heading out the door and still easily be used to tote the kids and all the things!
The kids love using their Radio Flyer for their adventures as they play and take turns pulling each other around.
My kids are always wanting to stay up late. One trick that has worked for us it to encourage them to get to bed quickly so they can have 15-30 minutes extra play time. This trick works well because you just the “going to bed” process earlier and they can have some time to wind down and get “extra” playing time in. The one rule is that this play needs to be quiet play and is often done on their own if they are getting too rowdy together.
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Radio Flyer. The opinions and text are all mine.