To some extent, I think imagination is something that some of us are just created with. Some people are just more likely to have big imaginations. My daughter is like me in that respect. Earlier this year, I even shared a few of the great stories that she has come up with at just 2 years old. My son on the other hand like so many on the autism spectrum doesn't do well with pretend play at all. Their varying imaginations are just part of who they are. Still, as parents, there are many things that we can do to encourage imaginations in our children. Today, I'm sharing just a few:
Read. A Lot. If you ask me, readers have some of the biggest imaginations out there! And why wouldn't they? They get to travel and experience the world with the turn of a page. As I've mentioned, my son isn't much for pretend play, but I have noticed that as he has gotten more into his books, his imagination has grown. He still doesn't enjoy pretend play so much (though he's known to dress as Darth Vader at random), but they inspired him to start writing and drawing his own comics and show off his imagination in other ways!
Ditch the Batteries. Okay, okay...I don't mean completely. My kids have plenty of toys that use batteries, play with electronics, etc... and there's nothing wrong with that- so long as it is not ALL they have. As fun as these toys are, simple toys like dolls or play foods or dress up really inspire children to use their imaginations so much more. Right now, my daughter's favorites are Barbie dolls. She pretends they are doctors, she takes them on picnics, she makes them perform songs. They aren't fancy, but those simple toys allow her to make them her own. One of the toys that we purchased when my son was around two years old was a silly little toy called a Bilibo. So, what does it do? Umm...nothing! It has no purpose aside from allowing kids to play with it as they please! Six and a half years later, this is still one of the most played with toys in my home. It's used for spinning, it's used as a step stool, it's been used for train tunnels and baby beds... it's even been a hat!
Enjoy Crafts Together! My kids love doing crafts, and while some crafts (like many you'll see here on my blog) do have an end look in mind, there are many crafty activities that you can do that are more open ended to allow children to just use their imaginations. Give them some blank paper and crayons or paint. Cut random shapes and give them glue to create as they please. Put all your random craft supplies on the table and just let them go nuts! One of our favorite crafty activities is Playdoh! We don't have a lot of Playdoh tools or sets, so they can just go with it.
Just Go With It. Some of the scenarios my daughter comes up with are CRAZY! We've have invisible Christmas trees with invisible castles stuck inside and we've had to call upon Toodles for a mousekatool to save the day. That's just one of the many examples. On a day to day basis we rotate out various characters from her favorite movies. At times we're Disney princesses, other times we're different emotions from Inside Out, and other times we are the patients and she is the doctor. We have learned to just go with whatever she throws at us to encourage her to continue on with that imagination.
Do you have a little one with a big imagination? What other ideas do you have to encourage and inspire that imagination to grow?