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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Imagination- 5 ways to foster creative play

1.  Open-ended toys – The more a toy does the less a child will be able to create, explore, and imagine.   When choosing toys for your child try to stay away from the moving, walking, talking, beeping, and bleeping.  I know that is hard to do in today’s world but these toys are hindering our children’s creativity.  When a toy can be a 

balance beam one day...

and used for roasting marshmallows the next

You have found yourself a great toy!  

A toy also doesn’t necessarily have to be a “toy” at all.  Bring the outdoors in… these natural elements just may very well be the best “toys” out there. 

“Tree Blocks”, sticks, and bark become forests, bridges, and homes for animals.

 Rocks become a forest for dragonflies.  Do you see it?  We do.   

2.  Art Materials – Your art materials should be just like your toys… open-ended.  A blank sheet of paper and a box of crayons will take your children to way more places than coloring between the lines of an image in a coloring book.    Coloring books tend to leave children uninvolved in their art.  By offering and having materials that consist of paint, glue, glitter, buttons, cotton balls, etc. you are opening up their world to an endless amount of creative possibilities. 

Open-ended art spaces



Creative artwork

2 years old

“Salami Sandwich”

20 Months old

“Rain showers”

3.  Reading- The definition of imagination is “the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality”.  What a great way to bring this out by reading a book!   By reading to your child they are able to imagine their own sights, sounds, and feelings.  Have you ever read a book, went to watch the movie and hated it?  Did everything look nothing like you pictured it?   Reading expands your mind in ways nothing else can. 

Let your children bring their stories to life.


“3 Little Pigs”

4.  Respect- Let your children know that you value their play.  If they are building or working on something ALWAYS ask them first if it is OK to clean up or put away.  Can you imagine if you were an architect working on a big project and someone came along and threw all your blueprints away?   

Display artwork on the walls and refrigerator.  Let your children “overhear” you talking about how hard they worked on that play-doh creation.  They are listening! 

You will see creative works like this out in our homes for weeks on end.  Yes, even if they are in the middle of the living room floor. 

Artwork hanging on walls and from the ceiling. 

5.  Play – If your child asks you to jump aboard on their rocket ship say YES.  If they ask you to join their tea party say YES.  Get down on the floor and play!  Be a pig-monkey for the day.  Pack your suitcase full of clothes and head to the “beach”.  Let them take you to places that you have never been before.  It may just be your best vacation yet. 



  1. This is awesome. My kids have never liked coloring books so we keep printer paper in the house along with a roll of paper for the easel and construction paper....

  2. My motto is that a toy's function should be 90% child and 10% toy. I try very hard to foster creativity in my child, thanks for the pointers! Love, love, love, your blog! I reference you every so often on mine www.dirtandboogers.blogspot.com

  3. I love the respect #4. This is so true and we forget sometimes. Great post. I LOVE your blog!

  4. Great post. When my daughter is given items that require batteries, often times we would take the batteries out. Now our relatives know better :)
    Our favorite art supplies are homemade art journals made from printer paper that has been printed on one side, and sharpie markers. We also tend to save any paper that comes as packing materials. A little swipe with the iron and the paper is almost good as new. Some of the pieces are so large, we can use them to make murals, or body tracings, etc.
    I am slowly working towards saying yes more often. Some days I am better than others.
    Thanks for all the wonderful ideas.

  5. I just sent this link to the grandparents since our little one's bday is coming up. Great post!!

  6. Great post! I have no idea how to go about getting my relatives to see that I would like to my son to get "toys" that help him explore. He got SO many singing, beeping, light-up toys for Christmas and while I was thankful, I was slightly overwhelmed and so was he. How did you go about that? Also, what are the toys your daughters made into balance beams in the first couple of pictures??

    1. You could make a phone call or send out an email explaining your thoughts and style of play. Tell them what you just told me! I know it's hard to "break the news" to relatives because you don't want to sound unappreciative. They will be more hurt when they come over and see none of their toys in sight! Be open and honest. Amazon wish list is a great tool to use as well! RL

    2. Sorry, missed one of your questions... the toys are Tall stacker pegs. They can be seen here... http://playathomemom3.blogspot.com/search/label/Discount%20School%20Supply

    3. great question! as even if you make requests they aren't always granted :~/ still working on this...and to play at home mommas! love your blog

    4. had to add this is why...or part of why I like to share your posts on my wall :) not sure they get read by as many I'd like though

  7. Great article Tammy. You really ought to submit to a parenting magazine.

    I was often told by friends and family they were shocked at Katie's lack of toys. She had plenty of toys, just not what they were used to seeing. And she had FUN.

    A couple of years ago when she was so sick she watched a lot of kid's tv programming and saw all the commercials for current toys. One afternoon she turned to me and said sincerely, "Mama thank you for letting me learn to use my imagination...These kids don't even have to think to use the toys they put out these days." I think it helped her to reason and think in a far more mature way than most of her friends as well. Thankfully I already had two such kids under my parenting experience and I KNEW this was the way to go.

  8. I just recently discovered your blog and I want to thank you for posting such great, imaginative and creative ways to play with kids. I have been in such a rut and have been an uninspired and boring mom for quite some time. Your website has provided me with the inspiration and motivation to be more involved and get back to being a fun mom. Thank you so much, I'm off to set up my first project before nap time ends!

  9. Where did you get the tree blocks? I'm hoping you know where to buy them and didn't just get them from your yard...I live in Brooklyn and that's just not possible for me!
    My other question is slightly off topic but something I've been wondering...what is a good method of glue dispensing to give my 23 month old daughter. She wants to squeeze out our school glue, but it is always too hard to do and leads to frustration. Thanks!

  10. I am really enjoying combing through your ideas. I have tried a few (on a smaller scale) - beads, light sticks, and we (as in adults and the kids) made a geoboard because they love the one at the kids museum and I never thought of making one for home - and they have all been a huge success. I've blogged about some of these (http://okrainva.blogspot.com/) and linked back to your site.

  11. Thanks for all your posts! You are an amazing parent and I love your creativity! I whole heartily agree with everything you post. Keep them coming!!!

  12. would you like to try some playsilks? I would love to send you some for free and see what fun you come up with!

  13. Just found your blog. I think we have the same view on kids and play. You do a great job of putting it into words. Thanks for the great resource!


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