Find a range of ideas for imaginative play, covering themes children love such as dressing up, pretending and role play and dinosaurs.
Kids love dinosaurs. They’re a huge source of fascination but unlike make-believe fantasy creatures from cartoons and kids programmes dinosaurs have a real educational value; you’re not just ‘playing dinos’ but actually learning about the prehistoric world before humans came into being, and introducing your child to a subject they’ll probably cover at school as part of the National Curriculum. You shouldn’t need too much help to bring these epic creatures to life but if you’re struggling for inspiration, here are some fun play ideas to stimulate your child’s imagination:
Make a primordial, swampy forest, using old blankets and towels, and pretend to be your favourite dino or use plastic dinosaur figures to play out a prehistoric scene. This game can be transported outside if the weather permits, using the flower beds as the backdrop jungle.
Play ‘hide the dinosaur egg’ – use a pretend egg (you can buy these from toyshops or joke shops) or a real one (kids will love blowing out the egg whites and yolks first!) and take it in turns to hide the egg. Perhaps once you’ve finished playing you could then decorate the egg with pens or paints.
Go on a dinosaur hunt – make pretend magnifying glasses out of cardboard and foil and dress up in ‘safari’ gear (e.g. hats and shorts) and hunt around the house looking for dinos. Hide cut out ones you’ve made earlier or toy ones in unlikely places!
What a gift the simple cardboard box is to parents! Make a point of saving some back from the recycling pile as they can be a benefit on a wet afternoon. From making impromptu cars or train carriages to sit in to dolls houses or tunnels there are many, many ways with cardboard boxes…here are some suggestions of simple things you can make out of a box to encourage your child’s imaginative play:
- Sit-in car – paint the box first if you like, sticking on wheels and a steering wheel
- Train & carriages – you’ll need a few boxes for this. Your child can sit up front and then you can connect a couple more carriages using sturdy string or rope for their teddies or dolls to sit in.
- Robot heads – make funny robot heads using foil and various other bits of space-age style materials and go for a space walk through the house.
- Dolls house – calls for a bit of artistic flair if you want to make something a little more sophisticated, with stairs and separate rooms. A simple shell with some toy furniture in might suffice, though!
- Smaller, shoe-box size boxes make great car or train tunnels if you cut a hole at both ends. Girls may like to make little beds for their dollies out of shoeboxes too.
A really, really big box will be a great source of amusement to your child – they can simply make it their little house for the day; draw a door and windows on the outside. Alternatively a selection of large boxes stuck together can make a sky-scraper.
Few children can resist the chance to dress up. Once children reach 3 and upwards they will be more interested in playing different characters and trying on different outfits.
While it’s a nice idea to invest in a couple of specific outfits (many of which can be bought quite cheaply) such as builder’s outfits and fairy costumes, you can make your own dressing up selection from cast-offs, charity shop buys or – if you’re so inclined – run up some basic little outfits on your sewing machine.
Below are some suggestions for items you might like to consider buying, making or collecting for your child’s dressing up box:
- Selection of funny moustaches (you can buy these from joke shops and some toy shops)
- Selection of hats – think grandpa’s old hat, a Gallic beret, an old straw sombrero and a pretend hard-hat, for example.
- Lots of twinkly costume jewellery (but nothing too long that they could twist around their necks).
- Cut off jeans, waistcoat and an eye-patch for playing at pirates.
- Tiaras and crowns
- Old sunglasses
- Old handbags
- Tool belt
- Boiler suit (for budding mechanics or pilots!)
- Any tactile, sparkly, furry or just plain funny items you see out and about!
One of the most simply ways to encourage imaginative play is to pretend you are someone or something else. This can be done in costume or not but is usually universally popular. Use a few props or supporting toys and talk to your child as you play. There are limitless opportunities for pretending but here are a few suggestions that require no or minimal setting up:
Vet’s surgery – your child can play at being a vet, looking after their soft toys. Talk about different pets as you play and ask what animals your child is particularly interested in.
Coffee shop or tea party – the teddy bear’s picnic/tea party is a standard favourite but for a variation of the theme perhaps you can ask your child if they’d like to play at being a busy coffee shop owner. Use real or pretend food and drink which they can serve to you. In advance you could run up some menus together or perhaps rustle up some yummy cakes which both you can eat during the game.
Pretend to be an animal – encourage your child to take on the characteristics and movements of different animals, being as physical as space allows! Prowl around like a big cat, jump like a kangaroo or slither around like a snake. Accompanying sound effects should be encouraged! Weave in some interesting animals facts, stories or songs if you like.
Source: Net mums