Their first crawl. Their first steps. The quality of their writing. The type of books they can read. As parents we tend to focus on all the major developmental goals. Which is totally fine (and normal). Sometimes though, it feels like we are unintentionally wanting our little ones to grow up faster – at least that is how it feels to me.
I get so excited when I get to tick a box off the development app I installed on my phone for my child. While it tends to focus on all the skills she is rapidly learning, the app seems to miss out on the stuff that makes a childhood a childhood.
You know, the magic. The pretend. The imagination.
The stuff that leads you to think creatively as you grow up. It might start out as you genuinely believing that your teddies can talk to you (right now, that’s where my little one is at) and eventually result in thinking up stories and creating art pieces. So I scrolled through the mummy forums and these are some activities that I found to help keep that imagination alive (especially in a time where us parents are competing with iPads and Xbox).
1. Get them outdoors.
Twigs and mud are nobody’s friends. Twigs are boring. Mud gets everywhere. One way to get your kids outdoors is to create a little space in the garden for them. One example is a fairy garden. All you really need is a little corner space with some potted flowers and plants, a couple of little ornaments from a two-dollar shop (think little windmills, plastic mushrooms, fairies, etc.), and you’re good to go.
Twigs and mud aren't all that great. If it's raining, try a little fairy garden instead. Image: Pexels.
2. Help their toys come to life.
It doesn’t have to be every day and it doesn’t have to be for very long (don’t you love/hate kids and their short attention spans), but sitting with your kids and asking to be part of their imaginative play with their teddies, dolls and building bricks makes you feel like a kid again. If they’re little, help them along with setting the grand adventure they are about to have with their toys. If they’re a little older, be prepared to be told what you should be saying/doing.
Anything is possible. Image: iStock.
3. Make some witches/wizard brew.
On the way to the park (where you are praying they will burn off every ounce of energy), get them to 'help' you get your witches/wizard brew going.
Grab a bucket and on the way get them to search for things like twigs, leaves, little flowers, stones, anything really to add to the magic potion. Not only will it light up their imagination, it will also (hopefully) not have them decide that they are bored before they even reach the park.
4. Get them to put on a show for you.
Yeah, I know. You are going to have to sit through a show where you will have to laugh at their not-so-funny-to-you but ridiculously-hilarious-to-them jokes. They can use their stuffed teddies, or if you want to throw in a craft project beforehand, get them to make some sock puppets.
Not only will they need to get creative with a story, they will also learn to build their confidence in speaking in front of an audience. Even if that audience is you… and the dog.
"They can use their stuffed teddies, or if you want to throw in a craft project beforehand, get them to make some sock puppets." Image: iStock.
5. Get them to fall in love with stories.
Everyone knows about the importance of reading to kids to help them to improve their literacy, but reading also helps them learn about the art of storytelling. So does (I’m about to get a little controversial here) watching a TV show or kids’ movie. It will help inspire them when they have pretend play with their toys or friends. Taking it one step further, get them to tell (or write) you a story of their own.
6. Check out local museums.
Often during school holidays, museums put on special kid-friendly exhibitions. Think building blocks or space exhibitions. Sure, it’s a great learning opportunity but it will also give you an insight into what your child might find absolutely fascinating. Maybe you have a budding architect, or an astronomer.
How do you encourage play and imagination in your children's lives?
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