Imaginative Play At Home.

A while back, I wrote an article for a friend, Pretend, Make Believe, Imagine, Play and Learn which was published on the Natural Parenting site. It was an easy article to write, it just kind of fell out of my fingers as they typed. It was easy because imaginative play is a topic I feel quite passionate about. It’s something I believe all children should have access too all the time and something I believe is often overlooked or deemed less important.

When I was teaching preschool I would spend hours setting up elaborate imaginative play spaces that related to the children’s interests. Then even more time watching the children play with them while I took photos and documented what they were saying, doing and learning so I could share how important this kind of play was with their parents.

Then I stopped teaching and started parenting. I waited somewhat impatiently for my girls to grow old enough to enjoy imaginative play and collected various bits and pieces and began setting up little play scenes for them too. Then Muski came along and the imaginative play scenes happened a little less… Then the girls started school and we had Number Four and now I can’t remember the last time I set up imaginative play for any of my kids, despite the fact that Muski adores it and the girls (even at seven years old) are very much still interested.

I’m not sure why it stopped happening, I guess we got busy and I got lazy. But Imaginative play doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming to set up. So I’m kicking myself in the bum and with inspiration from Science At Home’s Teach and Learn Carnival I’m getting back on the imaginative play band wagon with these ideas…

Play Scenes
One of my favourite things to set up. Tapping into what my kids are currently interested and then creating an inviting little space for them to explore. Plastic animals and natural objects make this easy for my kids who all love animals. Also fairies, car/city scenes and dinosaurs would all be popular here at the moment.

Water and Sand Play
Both water and sand play lend themselves so well to imaginative play. Ice blocks and penguins in the bath or a tub of sand with dinosaurs. I need to find our old sand and water tub and try some new accessories.

Dress Ups

We have the most enormous basket of dress-ups full of all manner of outfits. It’s time to go through them all and get rid of those that are beyond repair or too small. While my Big Boy enjoys the fairy dresses as much as his sisters I think he’d also enjoy some new additions that follow some of his interests. A dinosaur tail perhaps? And a chef’s hat for sure!

Role Play
We’ve had a little kitchen set up in our living room for a long long time and while it still sees some action it could do with a little revamp or switching up now and then. A few extra props would easily change it into a ‘restaurant’ for my budding chef!

Of course, even with my lack of input my kids are still managing lots of imaginative play. Thankfully a lot of their toys, like lego and blocks and dolls are open-ended and encourage lots of imaginative play regardless of how much effort I do or don’t put in. And they can’t help it… they are hard wired to imagine and play, so they are not missing out, but hopefully over the next few weeks there might be a few new play spaces to spark their imaginations!

we play
And since it is Tuesday I’m also playing along with Childhood101 ‘s We Play link up – take a look for loads of fabulous ideas!

This post is part of the new Teach/Learn Carnival hosted by Science at Home . Here are some of the posts bloggers across Australia and the world have come up with on this month’s theme, ‘Imagination.’

Check out some of these blogs for inspiring and imaginative posts.

You might also like our five fun family games ! bounce-off-banner

Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:

  1. says

    Since Junior started school I have been a little slack with encouraging imaginative play in our house but now that Rascal (2 yo) is showing so much interest I’m looking for some new inspiration. Thanks for the ideas.

  2. says

    Such wonderful ideas – thank you for sharing! We’re big fans of imaginative play too! :) We also try & recycle as much as we can & try our best to combine the two in our play & activities :)

  3. says

    I’m in the waiting somewhat impatiently for my boys to be ready for imaginative play stage. Although I think my two year old is getting close. I’ll have to try setting up some play scenes for him. We have a sand and water table but he hasn’t done much imagining with it yet. He might just need a little push. The baby still just wants to eat the sand!

  4. says

    Fabulous stuff Kate! I think kids will do it all by themselves – even without the input. Our sandpit is always busy being somethings. I also keep a box and fill it with all of our boxes, plastic fruit and yoghurt tubs, toilet and gladwrap rolls and such. Every now and then i tip it all on the playroom floor and just let them make things. I loved it when they made 12 little toilet roll people and put them in an egg carton and called it a bus.

  5. says

    Hi Kate I have only recently started reading your blog and am enjoying it. I wanted to comment on this post – on IMAGINATIVE play. I have been writing a series on play on my blog , based on Stuart Brown’s book “play”, and put up a post this week on what innovative, creative and imaginative play is. To me it is play that a child fully conjures – no material set-ups from parents. I’d love YOUR thoughts on what I wrote if you have the time.

  6. says

    I recently made a cardboard box play kitchen, which has seen a lot of action. Toys and accessories have been added from everywhere. Roast soft dinosaur, anyone?

  7. says

    I’ve been so glad to see some other kinds of play return to our house other than Barbies, which I now refuse to participate in, but it has been interesting in the Barbie world to see that as well as a lot of weddings there are a few divorces and single parents, watching how, as we come across new kinds of relationships amongst the people around us they are introduced into the play.

  8. sally says

    My 3yo loves imaginative play. Our latest project was to plant a jungle. we seperated a part of the vege garden just for him and planted it out with plants of his choice. we had some old lino which we made into a river which we fill with water and a large pointy rock that looks just like a volcano. we added a log, rocks, shells, feathers and yesterday a bridge. Its a massive work in progress which he adds to constantly and spends each day out there playing with his dinosaurs and animals.Extremly messy but we love it. Thanks kate for such a wonderful site filled with great ideas.

  9. says

    Imaginative play is one of my favorites as the skills they learn from it is endless. This is a great post you covered so much in it!


  1. […] the time to leave a comment, share their ideas and experiences or ask questions. A comment from my post about imaginative play encouraged me to write the post about adult influences on children’s play, and a comment on […]

  2. […] 11. Make a themed play space: in a large rectangle bucket or tray create your own play scene. For example: use a smaller container (like an empty margarine container) filled with water, and in the rectangle bucket place rocks, small twigs, bark or sticks from trees for an outdoor scene.  I love this one from Picklebums. […]