I lay under a blanket on the couch listening to shrieks of laughter from one of my three year old twins as she searched the house for me.
“I’m a hungry T-Rex! Roar! I’m going to find you!” she cried in an excellent impression of a dinosaur voice.
I heard her stomping and crashing around, and then, all of a sudden… silence. She had entered the room and seen my figure hiding on the couch.
I waited in anticipation, and sure enough, seconds later, she tore off the blanket and pretended to devour me, T-Rex style.
We both were breathless from laughing by the time our little game was over.
Childhood. is. so. magical.
But we all know that times are changing. Article after article states that children are being forced to grow up too quickly.
Academics are being pushed at far too young of
But it doesn’t have to be that way. As parents, we have the power to shape and mold our children’s creativity.
Imaginative play is an important part of child development for SO many reasons… but that’s for a different post.
For now, I’ll leave you with some new ways you can spark imagination into your family’s life!
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Table of Contents
- How to Teach Imagination
- How to Encourage Imagination in Children
How to Teach Imagination
Limit Screen Time
I am not at all saying that screen time is bad, or that it can’t be educational! Screen time is a wonderful tool in your parenting toolbox.
However, screen time (television, video games, iPad, and phone usage) is a passive activity. If you want your child to develop their imagination, they need to practice active activities.
You can think of your child’s brain working the same way a muscle does.
It takes practice.
So if you want to stimulate your child’s imagination it must be done by activating the same side of their brain that they use for active pursuits.
Even though all of these activities aren’t actually using the child’s imagination, it is nurturing and developing the same side of the brain.
Children learn to be creative by using both sides of their brain and that happens through active pursuits.
Read a Diverse Selection of Books
Take frequent trips to the library or bookstore. Let your child choose whatever books they love!
It’s especially fun to find a series that they like and read about the characters doing different things.
We visit the library at least once a week. I help the kids pick out books that they’re interested in, and also let them pick out a few completely on their own!
Ask Open-Ended Questions About the Story
You need to do more than just read the books to encourage imagination in kids! There are tons of great questions you can ask to stimulate their creativity.
Here are some examples!
Questions to Ask After Reading Books
- What would you do if you were in that situation?
- What do you think would happen if the main character did X instead of Z?
- Can you think of a different ending?
- If you were a character in this book, who would you choose to be and why?
- How would you feel if that happened to you?
You can adapt the language to make it developmentally appropriate for your child. A
Encourage Independent Play Time
Ahhh… independent playtime… aka my sanity saver most days.
What is independent playtime? It is exactly what it appears to be!
Independent playtime is a daily scheduled time when your kids go into a (
There are so so so many benefits of independent playtime. For one, it really helps my twins fight less. It gives them space to play however they like without their twin grabbing their toys or picking on them.
But it also gives them space to be creative. It gives them the freedom to explore. Make friends with their toy animals. Have dinosaurs ride on airplanes.
More about independent playtime…
Allow Time For Them to Be Bored
We live in a society where we fill our days with so many activities! And most of these activities are wonderful for child development.
Just make sure you allow time for them to be bored.
Build it into your daily schedule.
If you’re a working parent, this may be difficult. You probably want to spend every waking moment enjoying your children and doing fun things with them!
But perhaps you can find 30 minutes per day on the weekends for them to have nothing planned. Perhaps implement independent play time. Or send them outside!
If we constantly entertain our children, they will never learn how to entertain themselves. And just as important, when they are being entertained, their imagination isn’t being stimulated.
30-60 minutes a day of time with nothing built into it. You can do it and you will see great benefits!
Don’t Go Overboard With Toys
Oooh, this is tricky, isn’t it? It’s so fun to give our children toys.
Not to mention the piles of them they accumulate from grandparents and other family members during holidays and Birthdays.
And what on earth are you supposed to do, tell your children too bad, you have enough stuff, we’re returning this?
I mean, that works when they’re babies and toddlers, and I have totally done that… but once they’re old enough to understand what they received, it’s mean to take it away.
Other posts on toys…
But you can declutter. You can explain to your children the importance of not having excess. Before each holiday, we purge our playroom.
We tell the kids that it’s for two reasons: 1. we are blessed with so much that we’re giving away some of our toys for boys and girls who don’t have many, and 2. If we have things that we don’t use, it’s important to make space in our home for things that we will use.
Perhaps, even more important than the amount of toys is the quality of toys.
Most importantly… does the toy promote active play?
Blocks, musical instruments, and play food are all excellent examples of toys that promote active play and will spark the imagination!
I tried to enforce a rule when my children were babies and young toddlers that we had no toys that were battery operated.
That was sort of bulldozed over by family members and I didn’t stand my ground, but looking back? I wish that I had.
Many toys that are battery operated promote passive playing. The child sits and pushes a button on the train and watches the train move around the tracks.
For crying out loud.
When did it become too much for a child to push the train around the tracks himself?
Not saying that all of those toys are bad and will ruin your children’s imagination.
But take notice of the toys you have in your home and how your children play with them. Can changes be made to toys that will promote their imaginations?
There have been times my children have been naughty or aren’t properly taking care of their toys, and I simply remove them all aside from a few. And do you know what I notice?
Children don’t need a lot of toys to be happy. In fact, my children are happier, play better and fight less when they have
Let Things Get a Little Messy
I walked down the stairs one day to see just about every toy we owned lined up on the runner in our foyer.
Dollhouse furniture. Trains. Toy food. Barnyard animals. Blocks. You name it, it was lined up. Theo (my 5-year-old) was sitting in front of the carpet runner while Josie and Margo (3-year-olds) were running back and forth, now gathering up books and sprinting back to add them to the pile.
What did I want to do? Scream “What on earth is going on?! We don’t play with toys like this! Toys are for the playroom!”
What did I actually do? I came down the stairs quietly and watched them. It appeared that Theo was the train conductor of the polar express and Josie and Margo were loading up
Honestly, it was quite brilliant and really fun to watch. I commented that it looked like they were having fun and to maybe not bring all of the books over because they would have to clean them all up later…
And I let them be. I let them play. I let them make the mess. Do you think they magically cleaned it up when they were finished? Absolutely not. But I helped them!
Pretend Play With Them
Ok, I’ll be honest. I don’t like playing pretend. Like, at all.
BUT. I have noticed that if I give them the idea… set the scene… and then step away… they will continue on their own.
I’ll pretend to be a dinosaur stomping around, and then have to run into the kitchen to start dinner. Next thing I know, they are all pretending to be dinosaurs, complete with a mommy, daddy and baby, and they’re off on an
If you play pretend with your children, it will be so fruitful. You will be glad you did… and if you do it once, it doesn’t mean that you have to play pretend with them every day of their childhood for it to be beneficial!
Do Art Projects
I know what you’re thinking. I just told you to let your children be bored and learn to play on their own
It’s all about balance, my friends. I strive to do one ‘bigger’ art project with my children per week. The rest of the days, they can color if they choose to, but there is no big extravagant art project.
And our “big” art projects aren’t very big at all. Usually, we just paint things. Pumpkins. Rocks. Sticks. Unfinished wooden toys (like the kind you get from craft stores). Today is actually an art day, and we are painting rocks.
There you have it!
I am by no means perfect, but I do strive to follow these steps to cultivate the imagination! We are all doing our best, right? Make sure to check back frequently as I plan to have more posts with fantastic activities to help build your child’s imagination!
1. Limit Screen Time - While screen time in moderation can be a wonderful thing, to really promote the imagination, try to have more active pursuits rather than passive ones such as screen time.
2. Read a Diverse Selection of Books - Frequent the library or book stores and read as often as possible!
3. Ask Open Ended Questions - Ask them about the books they're reading. How would you feel if that happened to you? Would you make the same choice? If you could change one thing about the book, what would you change?
4. Encourage Independent Play Time - Making sure that your child has the freedom to play independently will give them the space to be creative and form their own ideas.
5. Allow Time for Them to Be Bored - When children have days that are fulled to the max with activity after activity, they have no time to get lost in their imagination
6. Be Mindful of Toys - Don't bombard your house with toys! Be mindful that children will develop skills for imaginative play with just a few, simple toys.
7. Let Things Get Messy - While it is best to keep bedrooms and playrooms generally well organized, if they want to make a mess when they play... let them!
8. Pretend Play with Them - Modeling pretend play for your children is one of the most beneficial things you can do for them to encourage their imagination!
9. Do Art Projects - Are projects, even simple ones, will work the sime side of the brain that develops the imagination. They can be simple, but make sure to give your child freedom to create whatever they fancy!
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