Take a stroll through any toy store and you will be bombarded with walls and walls of toys that are just plain LOUD. These toys all require batteries, most have blinding, pulsating lights, some have well-known characters molded or stamped into them, and they all assault the senses and seem to turn our little ones into mindless zombies.
So, what happens to those of us who want to raise children with imagination and curiosity? We make a choice. We fill our houses with some good old fashioned toys to counteract all the technology our children will be faced with day after day. Let's start with the basics.
Kitchen Play - If you look around your kitchen right now, you'll probably see quite a few plastic utensils that could be pretty fun in the bathtub. Or, you may want to take a stroll through a thrift shop and pick up a supply of plastic bowls, cups, and utensils at a reasonable price. Fill a tub with water, add some plastic containers, and your child will play "cooking" until they get pruny. Add some bubbles, and they can imagine they're whipping up batter for a cake. Yummy!
Legos and Building Blocks - Children of all ages are fascinated by Legos and blocks. When your child sits down in the middle of a pile of blocks, the imagination can run wild. You may notice that some of the most unusual bridges, towers, cities, or even monsters start to appear. For the very young child, the simple building of a tower of blocks, knocking it down, and building it again, can keep them occupied for hours, screaming and giggling the whole time. For the older child, building a city or complicated structure takes concentration and imagination. They're not only being creative, but also learning patience and improving their small-motor skills. After your child has completed a structure, sit down and ask about it. What's its name? What are the people like in the new city? Is the city on earth or on another planet? Ask your child to describe what a day is like in this new city. This can be a learning experience that's invaluable as well as fun.
Hand Puppets - There are all sorts of ways to create simple puppets. Your child can draw features they like on an old sock and it becomes a sock puppet. A pile of popsicle sticks can become a family of puppets when faces are drawn, cloth is glued on for clothes, and yarn is glued on for hair. You can even use an old pair of gloves. Just cut off the fingers of the glove and decorate to look like people, aliens, monsters, or animals. Your child's imagination will run wild if you just get out the box of materials needed. Then, it will be time for you to sit down and enjoy the show!
Felt Story Boards - Telling stories is another way for children to use their imagination and creativity. A story board is easy to set up and use, even for the youngest storyteller. You'll begin by making or buying a board. To make your own board you'll need a large sheet of felt attached to a sturdy surface, like a painter's easel or even a wall. You'll find felt at craft or fabric stores. Buy a nice supply of colorful felt to be cut up into basic shapes for the younger child and more sophisticated props for the older child. A very young child will amaze you with their ability to create objects with just a few basic shapes. Have them tell you a story about each creation, as you may not realize what it is until they tell you! Your older child can research characters and props by looking through books and magazines. Encourage your child to not only design the characters and the settings, but to tell you the story, act by act.
Musical Instruments - Whether your musical instruments are home-made with a comb and wax paper or store bought, making music is a wonderful way to spend the day together. Teach your child that music can be made from anything, from an old oatmeal container, to scratching two pieces of sandpaper together. You may want to listen to music together and try to pick out the instruments that are making the sounds. Get some sheet music or song books and teach your child about what the notes represent, and if you don't know, learn together. Simple bells can be strung together to create a one-of-a-kind instrument. There's even music in nature. Go on a walk and just listen to the sounds of the world -- music is everywhere in our lives.
Pretend Dress-Up - Pull out a big box of dress-up clothes, and your child's imagination will kick into full swing. Fill that box with discarded frilly dresses, fancy shoes, goofy blazers, and silly ties, and let the fun begin. If your closets are not full of this stuff, you may want to give the second-hand stores a look. I've found the more garish the clothes, the cheaper they get. And the gaudier they are for the kids, the better they like them. Watch after Halloween for the lowest prices and purchase a few costumes for your dress-up bin. When your children start throwing themselves into dressing-up, the stories of who they are and what they're doing start to develop, usually turning into a production of sorts in which you, the audience, is now invited to attend. Enjoy the show!
Art Supplies - Bring out some crayons, paint, kid-safe scissors, paper, glue, and even junk mail, and go to town! Even sidewalk chalk can be inspiring to kids. Give your child a place to draw, cut, and paste and you'll have a busy, content, and creative child for hours. Vary the art materials often to keep your child interested. You'll never know what sort of art projects your child may enjoy creating unless you provide a lot of different things from which to choose. This does not have to be expensive. Reusing paper bags for drawing is one way to stretch a dollar when creating an art project. Look around your house and see what you have that could be turned into art. Newspapers and magazines headed for recycling may provide your child the inspiration for a new art project, and at a bargain. Please SUPERVISE closely if you don't want your child to have a self-induced bad haircut or attach the dog to the artwork!
Doll House - You don't have to buy a large, expensive doll house for your child to enjoy the pleasures of play acting with dolls and creating an environment for them to live in. With a few boxes and craft items you have around, you can help your child build a house and decorate it to suit her taste and imagination. Scraps of wallpaper, fabric, small pictures, or just about anything can be used to furnish the doll's new home. Then, listen as your child moves the dolls around through the house, living out their doll lives, and see if you don't pick up on some funny dialogue your child is using with the dolls. Your child's doll world will be a place to explore all sorts of curious ideas that aren't possible in the world outside of the doll house. Sit with your child and enjoy the stories.
Books - Can any house have enough books? Make sure your house has a nice selection of great fiction and non-fiction books alike. A mix of the two is important so kids can choose, and so that they see they have a choice. Some homes lack a good supply of non-fiction books, especially during the pre-school years. There are enough suitable books in science, history and art to fill the bookshelves of any age child's room. Your non-fiction library will not only be interesting to your inquisitive child, but will be a good base for learning to research material later in their school years, and beyond. Fiction on the bookshelves spurs the imagination and helps the not-so-eager reader stay interested long enough to learn that reading is important, and fun!
Your imagination as a parent is what will help your child develop their own imagination. When you create an environment for exploring the world, you are giving your child an opportunity to use their mind. Technology will always be there, but a child's imagination is a changing and growing thing. You're making it possible for your child to soar!
Permalink | Posted on Apr 25, 2012