My 2.5 year old son, C, has just started imaginary play. He stretches his neck high into the air to become a giraffe and pretends to drink milk from an imaginary bowl when he is acting like a cat. It makes my heart melt every time he is inspired to try something new.
So I was THRILLED when I discovered that this week’s theme for MemeTales and PBS Kids’ Readathon was imagination. C and I jumped on the computer and read There’s A Dinosaur in the Park - a simple story about a boy who stumbles across a playful dinosaur in the park. As I watched C’s face light up with excitement each time that we turned a page, I started to wonder: How many different ways could I encourage his wonderful sense of imagination? Here are my ten favorite ideas.
Transform a Dot
There’s a wonderful story called Dot sharing how a simple spot can show happiness or disappointment, be quiet or loud, yummy or gross. After reading the book, draw several dots on a piece of paper and invite your child to transform them into something more complicated.
When it comes to K’nex and Legos, if you can dream it, you can build it. Several of my former students teamed up to build and then race these K’nex cars and loved using Legos to make skyscrapers, houses, and boats.
There is no reason to keep costumes in the closet until Halloween comes around again. Pull them out, add unwanted clothing from your own dresser drawers and pick up fun add-ins at garage sales. Children love to transform into princesses, dragons and fire fighters. And, if your little ones are anything like my former kindergarteners, watching the transformation take place is half the fun so try to include a shatter-proof mirror with the dress up clothes too.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Do you remember those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books from our childhood? They were addictively fun, right?! Start telling a story out loud and, when you come to a place where the characters need to make a decision about what to do next, ask your child to choose what will happen by picking from two choices. If she is old enough, you could even let her take over the story.
Create Something from Nothing
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and that is certainly true when it comes to building with recyclables. Give your child a pair of scissors, a roll of tape and clean recyclables (paper towel rolls, construction paper scraps, egg cartons). Encourage her to invent something new. A few of the creations my former kindergarteners made included boats, musical instruments and rocket ships. The possibilities will astound you.
Act Out a Story
After reading a book with your child, act it out using puppets, costumes or a big dose of imagination. When my son, C, and I read the book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, we love to follow it up by heading to our backyard and pretending to squelch-squerch through the mud, swishy-swashy through tall grass and (most exciting of all) RACE from a bear!
Listen to Audio Books
Have you ever fallen in love with a book only to be disappointed when you saw the movie? It happens to me all of the time. When we read stories without pictures, we make a movie of it in our mind. We have detailed images of the way characters act, how settings look, and more. Many young children’s books include plenty of pictures so they don’t need to fill in as many gaps on their own. But listening to audio books gives kids the chance to imagine A LOT. You can check out audio books from your public library or subscribe to various downloads online. (Stay tuned. I’ll be giving away one of my favorite, kid-friendly audio book series next week.)
I’m always amazed by how a set of bed sheets, a stack of pillows and a child’s imagination can transform into a jungle tent or a circus big top.
Read Books That Encourage Imagination
There are so many wonderful books that encourage a child’s imagination these days. A few of my favorites are:
These downloads from MemeTales’ website. (Many are free this week.)