Simple Ways to Encourage Imagination

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.



Dress Up

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.)



Build Forts

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.)




Get More!


If you like this, get more by signing up for our free newsletter highlighting weekly posts.  You can also follow us on Facebook and Pinterest.




Malia Hollowell

Malia Hollowell

Malia is a National Board Certified elementary teacher turned stay at home mom to three young kids {5, 3 and 1}. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education {go Stanford Cardinal!} and spent seven years teaching in a classroom before taking time off to raise her little ones.
Malia Hollowell

Latest posts by Malia Hollowell (see all)

[adthrive_ad id='PlaydoughtoPlato_Below_Post_1_300x250' center='0'] [adthrive_ad id='PlaydoughtoPlato_Below_Post_2_300x250' center='0']


  1. Great list! Imaginary play is so important for kids.

  2. What great suggestions for encouraging imagination! I’ll have to look for that “Dot” book!

  3. I love this list. We like to act out Going on a Bear Hunt too! When I think of imagination, I always think about the fun books by Audrey and Don Woods. : )

  4. Great post! We LOVE the DOT book! It is such a neat book. Have you ever checked out Press Here? SUCH a good book! Crayon Freckles has some fun activities with it too! Sorry, but the DOT and Press Here remind me a lot of each other so I wanted to share! :)

    • I haven’t read “Press Here” yet but I’m adding it to our library list. I know that my oldest will love your follow up activities. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  5. My son is the same age and has also just got really into imaginary play. He currently spends a lot of time being a little dog. Makes my life very easy as he is happy for me to sit on the sofa playing etch with a crumpled up paper ball. Long may it last.

  6. Chelsea says:

    This article is wonderful! So many great ideas. One of the things I do is instigate. For example, today we went to the park. I sat with my feet hanging off the edge and announced that I was going fishing. We’ve been learning about the ocean and fish all month so this fit in. Before I knew it there were three 2.5 year olds all catching fish, cooking it, blowing on it to cool down, and sharing with each other and the teachers. :) Even after I moved on to help one of the other children, they continued this play. One child changed from a fishing rod to a net, another pretended to gobble everything up. It’s amazing what a small spark can create in the minds of young children!

    • Your story put a huge smile on my face, Chelsea! I couldn’t agree more with you – it IS amazing what a small spark can create in the minds of young children. Thank you so very much for sharing!!

  7. Some great ideas here – I especially love the Dot Book. I think you could let loose with a packet of sticker dots and a marker and let the kids write their own stories!

    Thanks for stopping by The Sunday Showcase – hope to see you there again this week!


  8. Just by looking at changes in nutrition. Cleansing methods are
    aimed at removing these food particles stick to oral health knowledge questionnaire the teeth.
    It’s a call that’s telling me I’m here to help
    them grow oral health knowledge questionnaire and see them.
    Nearly all wish to locate something inside couple of
    weeks of blog postings- stay tuned. Go for a good deal as
    well. It’s also important to have the store a visit and
    simply buy a replacement tip.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *