Fall Parenting: 10 Ways Parents Can Promote Imaginative Play in Kids After the Glow of Summer is Long Gone
Another summer has passed us by. The leaves are starting to turn fall colors and the wind is getting a little colder. As the sounds of jingle bells echoes throughout the department stores, we are reminded of the craziness of holidays fast approaching.
The last thing on our mind is promoting imaginative play with our children. Those thoughts come natural when the sun is shining, the grass green and the beach beckoning, but not so much as fall and winter approach.
So how can we integrate imaginative play when the sky is less than inviting?
Model the behavior. How often do our children see us using our imaginations or do they see us glued to our smart devices? Using our creativity and applying critical thinking is simply a ‘muscle’ to be exercised.
- Do you like to cook? Make up a recipe with your children and let them know that you are ‘making it up’. After you eat your creation, talk about what worked, what would you do differently next time?
- Make up a story in mid-conversation at the dinner table. “Hey Johnny, what would you do if when you went fishing with your dad, a giant frog jumped in the boat and began singing Jingle Bells.” Get silly.
- Learn a new word. This may not seem like ‘play’ but when the entire family gets in on the fun, learning becomes play. Make a ‘Word-a-Day Box’. Fill it with one challenging word (could be that week’s spelling words), the definition, an example of how to use it in a sentence and an illustration of that word in action (visual learners will love that). Each day the student picks a word and the entire family has to try to use it as many times as possible during the next 24 hours.
Peter & Jimmy
Put away the video games and leave the house. I know, who wants to venture outside of the house when it’s cold, rainy or worse. Here’s the deal, you have to run your errands anyway…so make it an adventure with the kiddos.
- Give the children a compass (hint: your smart phone has an app for that) and have them ‘map’ the way to the store or wherever your errands take you. Teach them North, South, East and West with a Mnemonic. For example: Never East Soggy Waffles.
- Go visit small businesses at your local mall while doing your Christmas shopping and have the children ask the owners “what do you do?” Have a family conversation about how that small business helps others, who are there customers, what do they need to become a business owner? I love this one because it really gets kids thinking creatively and critically. You might be surprised at their answers.
- Many children are bodily-kinesthetic learners and need to move around and interact with their environment to learn. Try this: Have the little monkey spell their name out by making letters out of their body by standing in letter shaped poses. Do this in the driveway before shopping and get out some of that fall, pent-up energy.
- Not all fall days are wet and cold; on a beautiful crisp fall day give the children binoculars and have them go exploring. Tell them that they are explores and their job is to discover something new. That’s it. Don’t give them any other ‘rules’, set their imaginations free and you might be surprised what they find.
Make them Think.
- Instead of simply answering a question they have; ask open-ended questions, get into a real dialogue. Encourage children to explore their thoughts. “Why do you think that?” “Is there another perspective?”
- Play ‘Pick a Topic’: Put topics into a bowl and set aside time to have the children ‘pick a topic’. These can be anything from “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” to “Should girls be allowed to play on the boy’s football team?” You get the idea.
- Have the child make up a character using their imaginations and write down the character’s backstory. What does the character like? What is the character afraid of? What makes the character smile? What do they look like? This simple exercise is powerful. Children really get deep with their creativity and connect critical thinking skills. Take it a step further and put the character in a situation and have the child think quickly about how their character would respond. For example, “Your character walked outside and tripped. Looking back to see what was the cause of the fall, your character saw that he had tripped over a miniature alien…what does your character do?”
When we purposefully encourage creativity through imaginative play, our children will naturally develop strong critical thinking skills that will serve as a life-long gift…for all seasons to come.