children doing magic show

11 simple ways to encourage kids to play imaginatively at home….

children doing magic show

11 ways to encourage imaginative play in the kids at home right now……

With the kids being stuck at home at the moment its more important than ever to encourage imaginative play, especially in small children.

There are so many other benefits to imaginative play, including social and emotional development. They can explore emotions, experiences and practice interactions in a safe environment. It helps with their Self -esteem and self -awareness as well as improving language and communication skills and physical development. Never has all this been more important than now.

As Albert Einstein said “Logic will get you from A to Z: imagination will get you everywhere”

So here are 11 ways to encourage imaginative play in your children while at home and social distancing……

1/ Organise the play space
Spend some time organising the toy space and boxes so they are easy to find favourite toys and create games with them. Better still create themed boxes or prop boxes using not only toys but household and old items you have hanging around. For example….
Dressing up items (hats, scarves, old clothes, accessories etc.)
Blankets and pieces of fabric for den building
Old telephones and calculators
Cooking utensils
Stuffed and plastic toys

2/ Mix up the play environment –Take toys outside and mix up where toys are used so they can create new environments. For example take the dinosaurs in the garden, set up a teddy bears picnic in the lounge, or create a den in the bath (without water!!)

3/ Put on a show – a lot of kids love creating a show! And as much as it can be as excruciating to sit through, it’s a great way for them to develop confidence, play with ideas of creating structure and stories and learn about team work if they are doing it with others. Don’t worry about the end product, let them enjoy the process and encourage them to create stage space, use music and props. If they don’t know where to start then suggest they act out their favourite film, story or song. And facilitate their show space – either inside or outside; create a staging area for them to work in. Depending on the age and enthusiasm of your children you may want to be involved, starting them off with some ideas and even taking part and being parts alongside them (this is great as children LOVE telling their grown up’s what to do, so a great experience for them to do this.) Or if they are older you can give them an objective and a time limit and say you want to come and watch their show in 30 minutes.

4/Set up a mud kitchen – what kid doesn’t love a mud kitchen! The initial reaction for this suggestion is ‘no way’ for most parents because of the mess! However if preparation is done and the right clothes are worn and everyone expects to get dirty then its fine! Obviously this is not an activity to do the morning before you are meeting the grandparents for lunch but as that’s not happening at the moment then it’s all fine! Also if you can spend an hour after tea doing this, you can throw them straight in the bath and clothes straight in the washing machine and everyone’s happy (and tired and ready for bed!)  The evidence for the benefits of outdoor play and exploration in nature are far reaching. And allowing your toddler a controlled time where they can get as muddy as they like is therefore ideal!

5/ Create a den – this doesn’t have to be outside, although that is great too. But a living room den is one of the most exciting things ever!! Get chairs, blankets, cushions and set up camp with your tikes!! Once it’s set up take snacks and stories inside and get cosy!! If you end up shifting sofa’s and tables to make it you have the added benefit of being about to reach areas that need cleaning afterwards as you may as well before you put them back!! So it gets a job done too!!

6/ Set up role plays and take part with your little one –
Shops, schools, transport, airports, restaurants, doctors and mechanics all make great scenarios to role play out. Don’t worry if you don’t have actual items to use – it’s about make believe!

7/ If you can go outside and have a garden then find what you can to make a fairy house. If you don’t then find bits of clean rubbish around the house to make one. – Encouraging children to create structures and design spaces in this way is a great way to get them thinking imaginatively, not just about the world of fairies but also how to be creative in what they create.

8/ Use a large cardboard box to make a puppet theatre – Just cut a large square hole in the top half of the front, and a smaller one in the back where the junior puppeteers can enter. Hang a curtain inside the stage to hide the young performers. Make puppets out of socks or let them use dolls and stuffed animals to act out the stories.

9/ Building blocks and junk modelling – it’s amazing how much time a child can spend with a set of building blocks. Ones that are colourful and different shapes are great too. Save up small cardboard boxes, kitchen rolls and other sturdy and clean rubbish too and do junk modelling together. This is an activity I guarantee once you start you will get carried away and end up with your own masterpiece!!

10/ Use your book collection for more than reading – as well as reading stories together, act them out; gather props to help in the expressing of the story. Encourage your child to draw a picture of different scenes in the stories or even feelings of the characters.  Certain stories like ‘Going on a bear hunt’ are good as you can create the space in your living room and create your own obstacles to act out the story.

11/ Create a luck dip bag –Create a bag with a variety of items – toys and non-toys (but intriguing, safe items from around the house that have interesting textures) Create a bag with a variety of items – toys and non-toys (but intriguing, safe items from around the house that have interesting textures)

dino themed egg hunt

And a few bonus ideas –

Join in with your children’s play – research shows that adults who join in with their children are able to understand their children and communicate better with them. Avoid taking over though, let them lead. It’s a good idea to watch them play first and then when you join in stick with the theme / characters that they have set until they tell you otherwise. They will love feeling like they are in the driving seat and it will give them confidence and help them develop leadership and communication skills in telling you what they want you to do in the scenario. Remember play doesn’t have to be perfect.

If a child doesn’t know how to pretend they’ll rely on you to start the play. In which case see which toy takes their interest and then pick their favourite and start to do something interesting with it – dressing a doll, flying the plane or pouring an imaginary cup of tea.  Taking turns with a toy which captures a child’s heart is the best way to motivate them to start pretending.

Keep it simple. There’s no need to introduce too many new pretend ideas at once. Children love repetition and learn from it, so they will likely enjoy practicing any new pretend actions over and over again.

Have a good time. The time with young children is short and precious. Soon you’ll be battling over homework and what time they will be in…….so make the most of this time with them now……

Happy playing and let us know your favourite scenarios and imaginative play ideas……

children making a den

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