Last night my adorable 3 year old tried in earnest to convince me that she needed to wear her fairy dress over her pyjamas just in case there was music in her dreams and she needed to dance. I LOVE this age! Fostering their imagination, acknowledging her wishes and dreams and letting them just be kids. Children’s  imaginations are so precious and being given the freedom and opportunity to express them is a vital step in child development. The following are some ideas we have use at our centres and some in my home to help your children (and you) do this.

1. Create a Dress-Up Box              132_DRAMA_CENTRE.PSD

The easiest thing to do is to create a dress-up box. Fill it with hats, costumes, capes, shoes, their own baby clothes, jewelry…whatever you think your child will love. You could add in career-related items as well and adventure accessories such as a butterfly net, fossil rocks, or magnifying glass. Remember even an old cot sheet makes a magnificent cape for a child! Children love to imagine they are you, add in some of your own clothes too or even some second hand oversized cousin clothes especially cousin’s old dance costumes.

2. “When I Grow Up” Drawings

Encourage kids to make a picture of themselves as a grown-up in the job of their choice. Create some extra fun by having children lie on the paper, cut their basic shape out, and then have them decorate it in their particular work-related attire. You could even add 3-D fabric to their drawing, such as tulle for a ballerina, or a pirate patch cut out of black construction paper.

3. Cast the Kids in a Play

The only thing more fun than having kids act out a simple play is to have them create the play themselves and then act it out! Let kids participate in the planning and all parts of the simple production. The “stage” can be the outside patio or a game room, and it is most fun to have students create their own homemade costumes (nothing store-bought) out of paper bags, supplies at home, and imagination. We also do this using hand puppets and having the girls stand behind the couch. If you don’t know what to make the play about reenacting your child’s favorite bed time story is a great place to start.

4. Telling bedtime stories starring your child!

Each night after 1 story my 3yr old asks for a “castle” story. Each one starts with 2 little girls in a castle and then goes wherever she suggests. Some have featured animals, fairies, dinosaurs or whatever else takes her fancy. We next plan to start writing these down and helping her to illustrate them. If your child is too young to tell the story you can spark there imagination by retelling a fun event from their own experience.

5. Dancing time!

Dancing is a very creative form of expression, and children  interested in music, dance and singing can entertain themselves for hours through choreographing routines and creating lyrics, even  parts to music. There is plenty of  kid-friendly music  on the market aimed at children. The best place to find some is at your local ABC shop.

garden6 Plant a garden

We recently put in a raised vegetable patch. Each item planted is purple. Purple carrots, beetroot, purple lettuce etc. What child doesn’t like to dig and plan and watch things grow? Let kids do just that through having a patch of dirt of their own that becomes known as their garden. Let them pick inexpensive flowers or plants (who cares if the color schemes match), and let them take responsibility in nurturing it. Children will delight in watching a small plant bloom in glory. Alternatively create a dinosaur rainforest with ferns, hearty succulents and rocks or  even a water feature.

7. Let your child Lead the Way

Too often, adults are quick to snap that they are the leaders and in charge and that the children should follow their direction. For a change, let the children be the ones to lead on a walk, bike ride, game, or other activity. Say you are just along for the ride (of course keeping safety as an utmost priority). Let them determine direction and which path to take, and have them invent games or lead songs along the way. Letting them lead helps to foster self-confidence as well as creative thinking and problem solving.

8. Outsidetent

Creative play is not restricted to indoors, try makeshift camping, prepare food outside, a tent, a hammock, anything that takes their fancy. Sandpits are good for creative expression, bury toy insects in there, put their pots and pans in there and let them bake sand cakes – again the choices are endless!

9. Make your own music

Create all sorts of different instruments from sticks, bells, rocks, bowls, and string (to name a few possibilities) and combine those with the inexpensive clarinet-like and harmonica instruments you can find. You can make your own shakers using plastic bottles and pasta, rice, lentils or whatever you have on hand.

What are some of the ways you  foster you child’s imagination? We love to learn from others ideas as we are in this together.