Host a brainstorming session
Elementary school teacher, Angela Rathjen, shares, "In my experience, some kids only need the opportunity. Others need a little more encouragement. I find that brainstorming ideas helps kids get excited and can inspire creativity." Remember that during brainstorming sessions, there isn't a right or wrong answer — if there were, you wouldn't need to brainstorm at all. This is a chance for kids to test the creative waters and use their imagination to come up with unique solutions to solve a problem. "If I have a specific (creative) task for my students," Rathjen adds, "I find that modeling the brainstorming process and getting them involved in it helps offer ideas and encouragement to those who need it and helps to provide focus for others."
Provide an organized space
After all, rules were made to be broken, and it's impossible to get messy in a room that's already destroyed. Play therapist and counselor, Kathy Eugster, explains on her website that children need a clean and organized space for play. She writes, "Even though it is important to encourage your child to help in cleaning up the toys, it is your job to provide your child with a clean and organized play space and with the necessary toys and materials for creative and imaginative play." Additionally, consider noise as a factor that can detract from an organized space. Turn off the television, even if it is just on for background noise, to avoid cluttering the space and detracting from your child's creative time.
Make imaginative tools available
Stock your child's organized play area with toys like finger puppets, building blocks, age-appropriate art supplies and even noise makers. Eugster recommends providing props for dress-up to inspire imaginative play. Look outside of the pre-assembled toys that already have a story associated with them, and seek out toys that require your child to come up with a story of their own.
To a certain extent, it is important to allow kids enough room to play, explore and create on their own, without parental intervention. Once you have provided kids with the space and the tools they need, then it's important to resist the urge to lead their imaginative playtime. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't play with them, just let your child lead the activities and avoid the urge to correct them, unless it's a matter of safety.
As you watch your kids step out of their comfort zone and look to their imagination to create, play and solve problems, let them know that you are proud of them. Positive feedback that accurately reflects their effort will encourage more imaginative play and self-confidence.
MORE ON IMAGINATION PLAY
Teaching our kids the art of creativity
12 Educational adventures for kids
Is your child over-scheduled?