How to Encourage More Imaginative Play | Pablo Picasso famously pointed out that an artist is simply a child that's never grown up. But how do we keep our kids from losing their creative edge? Click through to read more...If you’ve ever watched Alton Brown in any of his TV cooking shows (or read his books/social media/blog), you may probably have heard Alton Brown discuss his love of multi-taskers (and his distaste for “unitaskers”) in cooking implements.

For example (one I harassed my husband about the other day, ha!) those bear claw meat shredders. They’re big, bulky, and do the same thing you could do with 2 forks or a KitchenAid.

A KitchenAid on the other hand is a multi-tasker. It has a beater attachment, whisk attachment, juicer attachment, food processor attachment, various pasta making attachments, and much more.

When it comes to toys I’m a big fan of toys that encourage imaginative play. These are the multi-taskers of the toy world. Imagine for a moment, the humble cardboard box of so many parenting jokes. And in truth, there’s more reality to it than we want to admit. On Christmas morning, half the fun comes from playing with the wrapping paper all over the floor. Mom & Dad may get a new washing machine, but Junior just got a new space ship, a jail for his misbehaving teddy bear, a boat to explore the piratey sea, and fort to hideout from his stinky sisters. At least until his stinky sisters try to take over the box for their own nefarious purposes.

joseph-scrunched

So what kind of toys do I look for to encourage imaginative play?

Toys that encourage physical development (including hand-eye coordination)

  • Gardening tools
  • Wagons/Bikes/Scooters
  • Jump ropes
  • Swings
  • Jungle gym
  • See-saw
  • Jacks
  • Pick-up sticks

Toys that encourage creative/imaginative development

  • Scarves
  • Puppets
  • Musical instruments
  • Dress-up clothes/accessories
  • Play dough
  • Art supplies
  • Stuffed animals/dolls
  • Cars/trucks/animals
  • Marble runs
  • Blocks/Legos/Lincoln logs

Toys that encourage sensory development

  • Sandbox
  • Bubbles
  • Play dough
  • Musical instruments
  • Tangle Jr
  • Finger paints
  • Koosh balls

julian-reading

Toys that encourage intellectual development

  • Puzzles
  • K’nex
  • Pattern blocks
  • Books (okay not technically a toy, but still important!)
  • Bop It/Simon Says
  • Peg board game (like at Cracker Barrel)
  • Blokus board game
  • Just about anything GeoSafari
  • Etch a Sketch

You may have noticed that there’s some definite cross over between some of these. For example, many of the playground equipment items fall under sensory development, as well as physical. Several of the intellectual can also be under creative. And this list is far from comprehensive… you can find a range of ideas by searching for STEM/STEAM toys (Science/Tech/Engineering/(Art)/Math), Melissa & Doug toys, Montessori toys, Waldorf toys, etc.

When I was a kid, humble sheets were turned into forts, castles, pirate ships, clothing, and tepees. Anything was possible! My boys regularly come ask me to turn their blankets into capes, so they can be pirates or superheroes (I’m noticing a generational pirate obsession… arrrrgggh!), and the girls love to be princess or superheroes as well.

 

What was your favorite creative toy when you were a kid? Share it in the comments below!