Children love imaginative play, here’s how you can help encourage your toddlers and preschoolers to use their imagination daily.
I’m a big fan of encouraging my children to use their imagination and play independently.
When kids play pretend they fully engage in play in a way that has endless benefits.
There’s a difference between being entertained and playing, and encouraging imagination and pretend play helps children learn to use all parts of their brain and actively engage in life.
This is far preferable than too much screen time.
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How to encourage your children to play pretend
All children will naturally come into this stage of development – when they realize that play does not have to be reality – but some kids need a push.
Especially those kids who are not skilled at playing on their own yet.
Teach your toddlers how to use their imagination – show them how
Children learn to start playing pretend somewhere around the age of 2 to 3.
With my oldest, and no siblings to show her how, we had to gently encourage and invite her to play.
We’d set up a tea party in her room and show her that you could drink a cup, even if it didn’t have any drink in it. Or you could eat the fake plastic cupcake though it wasn’t the real thing.
She gave us a weird look for a while, but eventually got the hang of it and now, she is the most amazing pretender I’ve ever seen.
Give your kids toys that encourage their imagination
Just as often as not, some of my kids will come to lunch in a costume of some sort. After Halloween, buy costumes half off and stock up.
Children are very imagination and props might help them get there quicker.
But props also come by way of things you already have at home. Toilet paper rolls can be props for an obstacle course. A standard baby item a prop for “mommy daddy, and baby” game.
A swaddling blanket as a cape. A vacuum part as a sword. Pipe cleaners for a crown. Newspapers for a scroll. Blocks to make a plane.
Encourage your kids to think outside the box and soon it’ll become second nature.
Follow this checklist until your tidy routines become second nature.
Help your kids set the scene for play
While it’s all fun and well to help them come up with props for their favorite game, why not create a scene? This is why forts are so amazing. Build a fort, make a pallet, build a sandcastle, or a real “castle tower” with mega blocks.
My kids will play hide and go seek and the seeker is a lion. The others will run from room to room and closet pretending they are about to be devoured.
This is not a quiet game.
If they like to play trucks, gather all the trucks into one area and create some easy ramps with books or boards.
If your daughter is playing princess, bring out stuffed animals, tea sets, tables, or whatever else she uses in her games. By helping them create an entire scene in their room or the living room, the game is much richer and more exciting.
Play silly and cheesy games with your kids
This takes some getting used to. We aren’t all naturally gifted players. My husband has always found it easy to lay on the ground and get in the game.
It’s taken me a bit more practice, but it is truly one of the most exciting things to do. Not only is a great way to connect with your child individually, it helps you practice being a present parent.
You don’t have to join in the game for 3 hours, but the kids are likely to give you a recurring cameo. Do you find it hard to play with your kids? It’s easier when you jump in and make up a game with them.
You can be part of their scenario or let them give you a role.
Give your kids a chance to play on their own.
Help them set the scene.
Let their imagination take hold.