Kids engage in various types of play over the course of their formative years. One type is sensory play—think scented slime, bubbles, sand, paint, and lots of marvelous mess. There’s social play, which imitates rule-based scenarios with others, like playing house or restaurant. There’s locomotive play, or movement for the sake of moving. Tag, hide and seek, and tree climbing all fall in this camp.

Then there’s imaginative play. As early on as two months old, babies play imitation games which set the foundation for imaginative play later on. Imaginative play has so many social and emotional benefits and it doesn’t even have to be expensive. Here are some ways you can provide fuel for your child’s imagination.

#1: Provide Toys Or Props That Teach New Things

Match your toys to your child’s interests or introduce them to things they aren’t already familiar with. You can draw inspiration from real-life professions such as doctor’s instruments or fire engines. You can also incorporate fantasy toys like fictitious creatures like unicorns or mermaids, figurines from films they’ve watched, or dinosaurs from prehistoric times. Put adhesive (and affordable) glow in the dark stars on your child’s bedroom walls and teach them about space while pretending to fly in a rocket ship before bedtime. You’ll be amazed at the stories they can weave from their imagination.

Level up the imaginative fun with toys that are a little less traditional. Large boxes are a gold mine here: they can serve as settings, props, or even building materials for unnumbered imagined adventures. Fabric scraps and old clothes can inspire a whole cast of costumed characters. And don’t even get us started on duct tape. From building to crafting, the possibilities of everyone’s favorite adhesive are limitless.

#2: Play With Kids And Their Toys

Solitary play is important, but it’s just as important to ensure there’s space in your schedule for playing with your kids. Crack them up with impressions of movie characters they know. Goof around in imagined environments of your own, using different voices and pointing out pretend objects along the way. Kids love it when adults find their inner child and can play with them on their level.

Take the party outside. Head out to the yard, local park or botanical garden. Spending time out in nature will provide loads of inspiration. Set up a picnic and play games, or just sit on the grass and give your kids story prompts involving the flora and fauna they see. You can each take turns to continue the story where the last person left off.

#3: Crafting

Supervise children in creative art projects. Hand them a bunch of odds and ends, and some glue and scissors if they’re old enough. Give them the seeds of an idea if they’re at a loss as to what to do and watch as they flex their creative muscles to make something out of nothing. Cardboard could become a crown and before you know it, you’re holding an elaborate royal court right there in the living room. Empower kids to practice their creative skills by making new toys from recycled items, masking tape or low-heat glue gun in hand.

#4:  Visit The Local Library

Libraries and bookshops can be downright magical. By reading to your kids often, you’ll foster a love for imagining and take them to places beyond their wildest dreams. Ask them to picture themselves in the world of the story. What would they do if they were the main character? Ask older kids who read independently to tell you about the book they’re reading. Who are the characters? What’s the world like? What would it be like to live there?

Are car trips screen time central? Carry a book in the car so when you’re busy running errands and your kids are with you, they can dive into a story instead of getting bored and defaulting to a tablet or your smartphone.

#5: Schedule A Photoshoot

Get your kids to follow the family pet around with a camera, documenting the minutiae of the animal’s domestic life. This gets them to pay attention to detail, be observant, and imagine the inner workings of someone else’s thoughts.

Encourage kids to play dress-up with found costumes and accessories they create, then stage a fashion show where they take turns acting as the model and the photographer. Bonus points for silly poses and sweet dance moves!

At Galileo, we believe that having a healthy imagination can open up a world of possibilities for your kids and help them to develop valuable skills like innovation and creativity. At our art, science, and outdoor summer camps, we teach campers that their ideas are valued and encourage them to develop and exercise a visionary mindset. To learn more about our camps in your area, click the button below to find a location near you. ????