Children who engage in imaginative play can have lots of fantastic skills later in life. Creative thinking can help people in all manner of ways, from everyday problem solving to carving out a career. But sometimes it can seem like kids don’t get enough time to engage in unstructured play when they don’t have to follow directions or rules. Lots of parents want to start encouraging this kind of playing in their children again, but they might not know where to start. Luckily, there are lots of ways to can help your kids to use their imagination to learn new skills and start thinking in different ways.
Make Time for Free Play
Sometimes, the best way to make sure that something happens is to schedule it. Family life is always busy, so you often have to mark out a specific time if you want to ensure that anything takes place. If your kids’ schedules are already packed with after-school activities or weekend play dates, try to clear some free space when they have nothing planned. Stay inside and let them pick what they want to do or take them to the park or somewhere else outside where they can run around.
Give Them the Right Tools
Free play doesn’t mean not having any toys to play with or tools to use. Your kids can use the environment around them, including toys that encourage imagination and creative play. So you might start by changing their bedroom. You could add a bed that doubles up as a play area, like the tent, bus and house shaped beds from Cuckooland. But it doesn’t have to be anything sophisticated. It could be anything from a plastic kitchen set to a stick. Kids can make toys out of anything, and that’s all part of imaginative play.
Kids are great at using their imaginations when they get going, but it doesn’t always come naturally to them. If they need to learn how to entertain themselves without structured games or TV, you can show them how. You don’t have to stick around and play with them all day if you don’t want to, but you can start them off. The excellent thing about free play is that they can keep themselves happy, without their input. Try suggesting a story to act out or a new use for something in their toy box. Of course, it can be fun to play long and drawn out games with them too.
Leave Them to It
Some parents find it difficult to let their kids play alone because they’re always wondering what they’re up to. It can help a lot if you learn to let go, and accept that there might be a little chaos. Although you can help your children get started with their imaginative play, you don’t want to have so much input that you’re telling them what to do. Let them have their space, where you’re not watching over them all the time.
Encouraging your children to use their imaginations now could give them an advantage later in life. You never know if playing cops and robbers now could help them get a job as an adult.