Once upon a time. That is a phrase that is said very often in our house. Once upon a time opens the door to so many possibilities. Once those magical words are uttered just about anything can happen. Dragons can appear. Witches can cast spells. Princesses can be saved by a kiss from their true love. The possibilities really are endless.
We marvel at our little one’s imagination. Seriously marvel at it. The scenarios that take place in that constantly evolving little head of hers are fantastic. And we take absolutely every opportunity available to foster that imagination. The same holds true for her creativity. It seems like such a short time ago we were amazed that she had mastered drawing circles. Now she is drawing everything from spiders to monsters and is getting ever so close to coloring inside the lines.
As fast as her imagination and creative skills grow we have to be on our toes to keep up, to provide her with the tools (both tangible and not) to keep moving forward and developing. Here are just a few of the things that we find helpful to keep that ball rolling:
Dress up – We have a “tickle trunk” full of dress up clothes. It is well stocked with all things princess, witch, fireman, clown and many other “characters.” I like to to go out the day after Halloween when costumes are super cheap and pick up some new ones. Value Village is also a great place to get some dress up goodies.
Role Playing – Even without costumes role playing is a ton of fun. Molly loves to pretend to be a princess, a pirate, a doctor, a fireman, a mommy, and the list goes on and on. I have to tell you I really love it when she’s the mommy and tucks me in, rubs by back and sings You are My Sunshine. Dolls and plays sets with characters are great for role playing too.
Craft supplies – We have a rolling cabinet (you know those plastic ones with drawers?) stuffed full of craft supplies. Stickers, glue, pipe cleaners, crayons, paper, you name it we have it. We don’t keep anything in there that she isn’t allowed to go and get herself. Some of it, like the paint, requires some assistance and supervision, but she has full reign to pull out whatever craft supply she feels she needs to create her master piece.
Stories – Stories are a HUGE part of our lives. Every night ends with bed time stories. Some times we read them from books and many nights we make up our own. Our three year old LOVES that. The things she comes up with are amazing. We usually help her get the ball rolling. I will ask her who is in her story. If she says something generic like “a dragon” I ask what his name is and maybe where he lives. Then I start the story – Once upon a time there was a dragon names Sparky who lived in the forest…she is great at jumping in and weaving a fairy tale. Some nights she will take right over and other nights it’s a joint effort with all of us contributing. Either way it’s a lot of fun.
Music and Dance – Another big part of our lives. We have tons of musical instruments. None of them expensive. We have a kid friendly electric keyboard, a harmonica, a couple of tambourines, a recorder, maracas and a few others. Molly loves to put on a “dance show”. It involves one of us dancing (we take turns) and the others playing the music. She loves making up her own songs and I have to tell you she plays a mean harmonica.
Forts – Break out the blankets and drape them over whatever furniture is available. Make it a castle, a cave, whatever you’re in the mood for. One night when I was away on business my husband made a restaurant. It was a five star establishment Molly named Tractor . Chicken fingers really do taste better in a fancy restaurant.
Getting out and getting active – Although this isn’t always (although it certainly can be) directly related to imagination and creativity it is an important part of the big picture. The fact is that a healthy body is essential for a healthy mind. It doesn’t mean you have to enroll your kid in every sport or activity going. It can be as simple as going for a walk or bike ride, or running in the sprinkler on a hot day. Anything that gets them moving is great!
Experiencing new things – Books, even a little TV is great to expose your kids to new ideas but they can’t take the place of true life experience. Museums, music festivals, farmer’s markets, the beach, there are just so many options out there. It doesn’t matter how small it may seem to you, to a kid, seeing something for the first time, every new place is a building block in cultivating imagination. Of course you set your self up for the five million questions that kids this age just need to ask, but it’s a small price to pay.
What sort of things do you do to help your kid(s) develop their imagination and creative side?