The Power of Imaginary Play

      I love to listen to kids play.  Especially when they are playing “pretend”.  It often is a treat for me to still hear neighborhood kids yell, “Ships Ahoy”, as they imagine themselves as pirates while traversing the backyards on our street.   I can’t help think during this holiday season that the best gifts often are not store bought, but the ones we throw together to help foster a childs’ imagination!

The other night during the 411 VOICES SPOTLIGHT radio show, the guests and I discussed the value of home made objects to be used during play.   Here is what we decided were perennial favorites for toddlers up through the elementary years.

 A BOX.  Nothing beats a box that once held a dishwasher but now becomes a fort!  Cut out the sides for windows or the side flaps and you have a spaceship, car, or ship! Add some paint, crayons, string and a makeshift flag, if you want!

Many years ago for our daughter’s fourth birthday party I took computer paper boxes and turned them in to Thomas the Tank Engines.  Each child was on the of trains and we made a track out of chalk on our driveway. Add some cheap bells from any craft store and you have a whole fleet of trains chugging around the track!  To this day it is heralded by those who attended as one of the simplest parties with the most laughter attended by preschoolers!

Don’t discount a shoebox either! These handy little boxes can be made in to Polly Pocket dollhouses or action hero vehicles with some basic craft supplies and ingenuity!

NOTE: Boxes are also great to use during group exercises by schools and groups (such as scouts) for lessons, team building and more.  Think creatively as children can map out stories and integrate ideas from others by using this different writing medium! Ah.. I love boxes.

TUPPERWARE,  OLD PANS, PLASTIC KITCHEN TOOLS and a FLOOR!  Who needs musical instruments when you can hand a child a set of kitchen accessories to make an orchestra come alive!  Key is to not give a child anything that can break and be harmful, nor something you treasure! So, leave the good stuff in the drawers!

    DRESS UP-  Empty your closet of all the crazy clothes you bought in the 80’s, 90’s and early miellenium and let your child have fun literally walking in your shoes. Let them pretend to be the business person, teacher, parent , etc.  Don’t forget the hats, shoes and gloves!  (And by all means the camera!!)

In closing, childhood is such a short time in the grand spectrum of things.  So, go ahead and let the kids in your lives be just that- kids!  And, if so inclined, sneak a peek, a picture and listen carefully to the magic of “KID-dom”.

2 thoughts on “The Power of Imaginary Play

  1. Hi Louise I love this post ! And boxes over the years is my favorite toy also!
    I used to buy a box a week just to play!
    I too love hearing kids play! But most of all I love playing with the kids when they play!
    I’m so grateful that at 10 ms R & her friends still like to play pretend school and pretend games And still want me to play with them!! I know it will be over pretty soon but I’m glad that it’s lasted this long!!

  2. Hi Louise,

    Imaginative play lasts forever between generations, with couples, with families and we treasure those boxes!

    Open ended play, using imagination, is priceless and so are those times we sit side by side to be guided by creative minds, children who tell us fun stuff to do. My grandson often tells me, let’s go make a ramp and it always evolves into making roads, ramps and bridges. Being three he likes to tell me when to make the siren sounds or the train sounds. I make mistakes and he helps me. Treasured times for sure.


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