January 8, 2013

The ABC's of Imaginative Play {Fun} F-J

On Sunday I launched a five day series entitled The ABC’s of Imaginative Play.  Yesterday I covered the letters A - E.  The focus was on CREATIVITY and simple steps parents can take to foster creativity in children.

F - J

Today with the letters F – J the emphasis is on FUN!

F - fun

F is for...wait for it…FUN!  Imaginative play is all about having fun.  There is fun to be had in the day to day routine.  Tasks that must be done, errands that have to be ran can all be done with some FUN thrown in.  Make every day an adventure.

Make a game out of a trip to the store by setting up a simple scavenger hunt.  Give each child a few items from the grocery list and see who can spot all the items on his list first.  Children do not need to be older to play.  Stay together as a group and cross off found items as they come along.  Whoever holds the list that is finished first wins!  Use a picture list for children not yet old enough to read.

Picking up toys is an adventure waiting to be taken!  Have your child pretend he is the brave knight and the toy box is the hungry dragon.  Make a loud noise every time your child “feeds” the dragon one of his toys.

I love this photo of my boys jumping in leaf piles after raking on a fall day.  We live in southern California, so our yard is lacking in leaves to be raked.  Did that stop them?  Nope!  In their wonder filled eyes this was the most gigantic leaf pile any child every collected.

Playing in leaves

G - gender neutral

G is for gender neutral.  Part of using your imagination is thinking outside of the box.  J-Bug (3) goes around saying his is a princess.  JZ (5) always tells him that princesses are girls.  I gently tell JZ that it’s “his imagination, and he can imagine whatever he wants!”  Isn't that one of the benefits of imaginary play?  You can be who you want to be.  I don’t want to put limits on my children’s imaginations by restricting them to gender roles and stereotypes.

J-Bug will most likely never be an actual princess, but breaking past labels and stereotypes, another reason to declare all toys gender neutral is that there are roles that our boys will hopefully play someday, like becoming a father.

My Small Potatoes wrote a beautiful post about the boys she watches taking care of dolls.

A group of educated bloggers including an occupational therapist, a pediatric speech-language pathologist  and a clinical psychologist specializing in children and play therapy collaborated to write a post about why kids should play with dolls, yes even boys!

baby dolls

On a warm day Happy Hooligans set up a baby bath for her daycare children, and all the children, even the little boys, enjoyed grooming the dolls.

H - help

H is for help.  There is a fine line between helping your child during play and taking over, and I encourage you to find that balance as you interact with your child.  I mentioned in yesterday’s post to skip coloring sheets and instead use a blank sheet of paper.  I tend to use the same tactics with play.  I often set out invitations for my boys to play (more information about invitations in the next point), but I don’t direct their play.  J-Bug almost always wants me playing by his side, and I love joining him.  His idea of me playing with him is just sitting quietly by him and responding to his actions.   He wants me to notice everything he does, but he doesn't really want me to play along.  It took me awhile to realize that, because his words are generally, “Would you like to play with me?”  I interpreted that as actually playing with him, but he meant sit beside him and watch.

Finding what your child means when inviting you to play is a big step in being a part of his imaginative play.  In all cases, avoid taking over.  If J-Bug gets stuck during play instead of jumping in and solving his problem I ask thought provoking questions or offer open suggestions that encourage him to think of a solution himself.

A great example of helping without taking over was when I set out glowsticks and waterbeads for J-Bug to play with.  Had I directed his play I would have missed out on watching his little mind create “smoothies” and “treats” for us to enjoy.  All I did was provide the supplies.  He provided the imagination.  Had he not jumped right into play I might have offered a suggestion or two to enjoy the items together.

I - Invitation

I is for invitation.  An invitation to play is a phrase used in ECE for setting up a few items and leaving them out for a child to choose to play with them, or not.  It is called an invitation, because it is just that, an invitation.  It’s not an order to play but rather an invitation with no strings attached.  It’s rare that my boys turn down an invitation, although it does happen sometimes.  Invitations are generally open ended and can vary in type.  They lend themselves to creative and imaginary play.

Here are some invitations I have set up for J-Bug and JZ:

Invitation to run through an obstacle course.

Invitation to play with water balloons in the pool.

Invitation to paint with playdough.

J - just play

J is for Just Play.  Put off the chores and just play.  This isn't a reality all the time, but whenever possible I make it happen.  These years with my children are too precious to fill with a clean house, perfectly manicured lawn and a tidy office.  I’d rather be playing with my kids, enjoying the moments their imaginations take flight.

Chores still need to be done, of course, so I find it best to set reasonable goals for each day and stick to a cleaning schedule.  Once my to do list is done I know I can relax and enjoy playing. 

This captured moment is priceless.  Each boy is lost in his own little world digging in the warm sand.  They were all quiet and mesmerized.  Oh the power of imagination!

Beach play

Coming tomorrow, letters K – O!

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  1. My oldest son loves to pretend that bears are babies. He is so gentle with them, he feeds them, burps them, and puts them down for naps. He also loves playing with monster trucks and in the mud, but I think staying gender neutral is important. I can't wait to put out more invitations to play!

  2. I've never heard of setting up an 'invitation' - how fun! I am struggling with leaving my little ones access to all the art supplies and myself - I don't think my imagination is very good! I'll just set up and follow for a little while!


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