There is pressure in today’s world to over structure your children’s lives. Heck, my life is over structured and the limited time I have with my children is priceless. Many times I plan projects or outings with my kids to guarantee quality time. This works for me, but it doesn’t leave room for unplanned play. It doesn’t leave room for imagination or spontaneity.
My oldest is 6 and I have recently caught him talking to himself. He gets quiet when he knows someone else is around, but returns to his imaginative play when he is alone. I mentioned to him that I used to play school and pretended that I had a class full of students that were counting on me to teach them and instruct them. I shared how I would teach a lesson, assign homework, and help answer their questions. For hours I would play all by myself, but I never really felt alone. Rowan was very interested in this. I could tell that he felt a little silly about it and that made me wonder . . . Is he getting enough independent play time? I personally feel guilt about the lack of time I have to give to my kids. I am 100% available to them, but I work full time and it limits the time we have. So, do I over compensate and rob him of his imaginations? What is the proper balance?
The answer, similar to all other answers parents receive in raising children is, it depends. It depends on the child, it depends on the parent, the circumstance, the alignment of the stars — it is different for every kid and every parent.
I have compiled a few of my favorite imagination development ideas with the help of Pinterest and some awesome Mommy blogs. Check these out:
Make up the 51st state – Over at How Stuff Works, they share the 51st state idea. Have kiddos come up with a state flower or animal. Name their state and pick city names. Decide on shape and topography of their state and select community leaders.
Start a restaurant – Similar to the 51st state, have your kids open a restaurant. Design a sign with the restaurant name and build a menu. Hire staff and determine hours of operation. Order supplies and invite guests to opening night.
Redecorate their room – As you all know, I am overly organized. I like a neat, clean house with everything in its proper place. Sometimes I forget that my kid’s rooms are their spaces. I go in to dust and organize how I want things leaving them out of the creative process. When you get them involved, they take a great pride in their space and, ultimately, take better care of their things. My oldest has created a library nook, a fort, and a craft center just because he has had the opportunity to get creative in his own space.
Writing a song/poem – My family is always writing crazy songs. My two year old sings my made up songs to teachers with the expectation everyone knows them. From green peppers, to a new compilation of the ABC song – we are always being creative. Ask you kid to give you one word, then using that word, write a song. Create the melody and add the musical instruments.
Make a commercial – My husband and his family did this when he was a tyke. Pick a product from your house and record yourself marketing the product in a commercial. Have your children think about their audience and, using their imagination, get people to buy it. Using Facebook Live is a great way to help them plan ahead, know the points they want to get across and really sell it! The immediate response is a bonus.
Pick an Occupation – If you select farmer, have them set up their farm. Select stuffed animals for livestock and jump into real farm life. Some overalls and a hat help imagine the role they have. You could also be a scientist, construction worker or, like in my childhood days, they could be a teacher.
You can pick from above or encourage dramatic play with Legos, Matchbox cars, or another toy. Structure is my friend, but sometimes I just need to back off and let them be kids in their own world.