How to Roll with Your Child’s Imagination

For such little people, kids seem to come with huge imaginations. While every request may not be in your power to fulfill, it’s vital to help encourage your child’s creativity and imagination! Here are some ideas to help you better roll with your child’s imagination.

Play Dress-up

Little girl twirling in flower princess dress

Dress-up play isn’t just putting on a costume. It’s one of the best types of pretend play for toddlers, preschoolers and elementary-aged children. Playing dress-up lets your child pretend to be anyone or anything they want to be. It’s a chance for your child to dream and use their imagination. Kids learn creative play and develop emotional, social and gross motor skills when they play dress-up.

How can you help encourage imaginative play through dress-up? 

Provide Dress-up Supplies

Little girl and her doll wearing matching boy mouse dresses

Every little girl needs her own dress-up wardrobe. Princess dresses will make your little girl’s dreams come true. And don’t forget doll princess dresses so your daughter and her tiny friend can dress up before they go on adventures to find their prince charming’s together.

You don’t have to buy costumes for your kid to play dress-up, though. All a kid needs are clothing items and accessories, like scarves, hats, gloves, aprons and jewelry that you no longer use.

Read Books Together

Another fun and simple way to foster a child’s imagination is by reading to them. The more you read to a child, the more you open their minds to new ideas, expand their vocabulary and help them understand the world around them. As you read, your child practices their imagination by creating different images and scenarios in their head about what you’re reading.

Find Fun Ways to Incorporate Pretend into Meal Times

Meal time is family time. Make food and family meals entertaining by doing themed meals. Everyone could dress up and role-play during dinner. You could even ask your kids to help you come up with and cook foods that fit the meal’s theme. If that sounds like too much effort, get your children’s imaginations going by having them create their own food art during snack time.

Another idea is pulling out story cubes during dinner. This fun dice game is easy and fun for the whole family. Roll the dice to generate different images, and then create and tell a story using those images. Your kids won’t even know you sneaked imagination learning into dinner time.

Provide Tools for Them to Be Creative

Aside from dress-up clothes, open-ended toys and materials can nurture your kid’s imagination. Here are some creative tools to have on hand and easily accessible for your kid:

  • Art caddy
  • Plain and colored paper
  • Washable paint and paintbrushes
  • Washable markers and crayons
  • Child-size scissors
  • Glue
  • Stickers
  • Scraps of fabric
  • Empty boxes
  • Playdough
  • Kinetic sand
  • Building blocks
  • Magnetic tiles
  • Animal figurines
  • LEGOs.

Imagination takes place in a child’s head, but imagination learning happens with their hands.

Take Them to New Places

Going to new places and experiencing new things exposes a child to new sights, new smells, new sounds, new plants and animals, new people and cultures, new scenarios, new problems to solve, new ways of doing things and new ideas. Whether you’re exploring museums and zoos or adventuring through parks and hiking trails, your child’s curiosity about these new places can lead to new levels of creativity.

Play Pretend with Them

Little girl dressed up as a cowboy

What do all kids want? They want time with their parents. Playing pretend with your child is one of the most imagination-stimulating things you can do for them. It can be as simple as playing dress-up or drawing outside with sidewalk chalk. You can go on a nature walk or cook up a pretend feast in their play kitchen. The more lost you get into imaginative play, the more your child will, too. It will be a creatively fun and fulfilling bonding experience for both you and your child.

If you need to, you can encourage or help guide pretend play for toddlers and preschoolers. For example, ask your child, “Can you mix the paint colors for your picture to match your mood? Who should we build a fort for and what should we use to make it?”

Let Them Be Bored Sometimes

Your kid comes to you and says, “I’m so bored.” What do you do? You do nothing. We know it can be hard. As parents, we’re wired to rush in and help our kids. But you don’t always have to come up with ideas when they say they’re bored. Let your kid come up with their own ideas. Unstructured play is fundamental for kids’ imaginations

An article from Melbourne Child Psychology & School Psychology Services says, “Boredom gives children an inner quiet that helps with imagination and self-awareness. … A creative imagination and problem-solving ability are important life skills, so it’s good for children to have these moments of ‘boredom’ and having to find ways to entertain themselves.”

Limit Screen Time

It can be tempting to use the TV or tablet as a babysitter. No judgment – we’ve all been there. Screen time can be helpful, but it can also kill creativity and a child’s imagination. Watching a show is a passive activity. Your child is watching what someone else is doing rather than actively coming up with their own ideas of doing things. 

When you need to use screen time as a tool, like if you need to make dinner or want to shower for 15 minutes in private, find apps, games and shows that encourage creativity and learning. If your child is old enough, you could also let them play video games. According to this study of almost five hundred 12-year-olds, “boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative.”

Let the good, imaginative, play-times roll!