We parents often make things more difficult than need be. We think our children need the latest toys, videos and electronic learning games to be entertained, but that’s not true. Often, our children just need items to spark their imaginations.
The good news is that the earlier you engage them in imaginative play, the stronger their imagination will develop, just like any other muscle that gets worked out regularly.
So turn off the television, shut down the computer, gather together a few simple supplies you have around the house, and let your child have fun.
Did you recently get a delivery from Amazon or somewhere else? Don’t break down the box and recycle it! Use it for your toddler instead. Some simple ideas:
Tunnel: Open both the top and bottom and tape the flaps open. Let your toddler use it as a tunnel. He may enjoy climbing through or simply hiding out in the tunnel.
Artistic canvas: Put your toddler inside the box with crayons. Let her color the sides, the bottom, anywhere she wants on the box.
Vehicle: Let your child pretend the box is a vehicle. You can push him around in the box while he drives. Or, it could be the engine of a train, and he could sound the whistle and make train noises while driving.
Free play: Simply go off to the side where you can keep an eye on your toddler but not interrupt, and watch your toddler’s imagination go to work. My girls have surprised me by trying to turn empty boxes into cat beds for our cat, or beds for their dolls. You may be surprised how your child uses the box.
Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Roll
Everyone has easy access to empty toilet paper and paper towel rolls. There are a variety of ways you can use these with your toddler.
Microphone: Join your toddler in a sing along, with each of you holding your “microphone” toilet paper roll. For extra fun, let her color it beforehand.
Megaphone: Just have fun speaking loudly through the paper towel role tube and hearing your voice echo.
Rocket ship: Take a paper towel roll and turn it into a rocket ship. Perhaps glue strips of red construction paper on the bottom to make the flames and take a black piece of construction paper shaped in a cylinder to be the top of the rocket ship.
Not only is Play-Doh a great sensory toy, it can also provide your child with a great deal of imaginative play. If you have the Play-Doh kits that come with letter or other shapes to cut out, that’s fine, but you can simply let your child experiment with blending colors, making shapes, and rolling it. If you have small cookie cutters, he can play with those.
What are your favorite, low cost ways to spark imaginative play in your child?