How to Bring Out Your Children's Imagination at Playtime

9 Ways to Spark Your Children's Imagination

A picture of kids playing in a cardboard pirate ship
See the adventures your children's imaginations will take them. Photo © Peter Muller / Getty Images

The imagination is such a gift for kids and adults. Encourage imaginative play with your children with fun activities you can enjoy together.

Create a Superhero

This fun activity is for boys and girls. Grab all of your magazines and junk mail to create the ultimate superhero. With glue and scissors your kids can find people, animals or objects that you can make superheroes out of and then arm them with their superhero tools.

Will your child's new superhero wear a box while carrying a bowl of salad in one hand and a sand pail in the other? It's up to your child and her imagination. Use a baggie to store all of her superheroes in for imaginative playtime when she's finished. Plus, there's always room for more superheroes the next time she plays.

Take an Imaginary Vacation

Did it snow a foot last night? Or is the weather too hot to go outside? Take an imaginary vacation anywhere your child wants to go today.

Play airplane, complete with a security checkpoint, stuffed animals as passengers and an imaginary plane ride. You can even play flight attendant and serve snacks on your flight. Then get off the plane and enjoy your vacation. For an educational twist, use your vacation to teach kids about other world cultures. Don't forget to take pictures on your child's dream vacay!

Serve Up a Pretend Restaurant

Your child may complain about eating her veggies but she will love playing restaurant play restaurant.

Help her open a pretend restaurant right in your own kitchen.

She can name her restaurant, plan the menu and, of course, run the restaurant too. For a math lesson, be sure she adds prices and help her add up the total of her customers' bills.

Open a Family Movie Theater

Add a twist to your next family movie night.

Turn your living room into a family movie theater.

She can create movie tickets, open a concession stand and escort everyone to their seats. To mix in some learning, let everyone write movie reviews after the box office closes and the popcorn has been swept off the floor.

Throw a Wedding

Dum Dum De Dum. It's wedding time. Help her throw the wedding of the century. From the invitations to the food and, of course, the big day, this imaginative way to play with your child can last an afternoon or more than a week.

Who will the lucky bride and groom be? It could be Bubbles the stuffed animal and your child's favorite dollie or play an educational game and marry off contractions, such as "has" and "not" that become "hasn't" after they say, "I do!"

Play School

As much as an older child may complain about going to school, she loves playing school when she's younger. Set up a play classroom at home and let your child be the teacher or the student, her choice.

As teacher, she can take attendance and teach class. As student, you can use the time to teach her and her stuffed animals (the other students) anything you want. What will your child learn in her pretend classroom today?

Break Out of the Box

A castle fit for a princess.

A robot body. A pirate ship. A baby doll's bed. What will your child's imagination make out of an ordinary cardboard box?

Save the boxes you get from items shipped to your home. For larger boxes, head to the appliance store and ask for boxes that refrigerators, stoves and washing machines arrived in. Stores usually have some on-site from unpacking customer orders and putting floor models out on the showroom. Take them home, grab the paints or markers and help your child make her own box dream house or race car.

Get Some Cups

You would be surprised how entertained kids can be with some simple plastic cups. Your child can stack, use them for sorting and even make rocket ships out of them.

Buy cups in bulk so she can have plenty of building materials. That way, she won't run out of cups as she builds her fortress or her 100-cup tall skyscraper.

Try Creative Activities Every Day

The more you tap into your child's creativity, the more you can open up her imagination. Try new creative activities every day to see where her imagination takes her.

Start a pretend newspaper for her stuffed animals, create a website together or encourage her to write stories from a picture. Guide her where necessary but let her use her creativity and imagination together to come up with her own ideas.