(BPT) – You love spending time at home with your kids, but you might not have anticipated just how much time this would be at the start of the pandemic. Now that cold weather is sweeping the nation, families will be at home and indoors even more. Fortunately, the magic of imaginative play not only keeps kids busy, but it helps them develop critical skills that will serve them well throughout life.
Active imaginative play has proven to be beneficial for kids, according to Scholastic, including skills development such as:
- Language skills: kids tell their own stories and play pretend
- Creativity: children create new worlds and scenarios
- Social skills: children learn to play together or with adults
- Self-regulation skills: managing their emotions alone or in relation to others
- Problem-solving skills and resiliency: discovering their own solutions
- Understanding and empathy: putting themselves in the shoes of other people, animals, etc.
Creative play nurtures budding imaginations and helps young brains develop in healthy, age-appropriate ways. As kids spend more time at home and in some cases away from preschools, classes and playdates, this is even more critical to fill in for lost learning opportunities. To inspire creative and dramatic play in your home any time of year, consider these fun ideas:
Choose tech toys that promote hands-on creativity
Kids are accustomed to having technology in their daily lives, so offering a low-tech toy strikes the perfect balance between sparking interest and encouraging hands-on, imaginative play. The BRIO Smart Tech Sound Action Tunnel Circle Set lets kids create their own world using a childhood favorite: trains. Kids can reinforce their fine motor skills by building train tracks, while the set’s ‘record-and-play’ function allows children to record their own sounds and integrate them into the play experience. The free Smart Tech Sound app also offers a simple remote control option for young hands, plus there are many options to expand your set for customized playing.
Stock a play clothes bin with a variety of items
Encourage your child’s sense of dramatic play by keeping a dedicated bin stocked with dress-up clothing. Fill it with old clothes, unused accessories, and former Halloween costumes and other fantasy wear. You’ll be amazed by their transformations and what new and inventive ways they use the items. Ask open-ended questions such as, “Where do you live?” and “How do you feel?” to reinforce your child’s creative spirit. You might even capture some pretty awesome pictures and videos to document this unique year.
Make mystery prop boxes with themed items
Kids love a good mystery and adore surprises, so use that emotional pull to your advantage by introducing a special “mystery” play box filled with themed goodies to inspire. For example, the box might include baby items such as bottles, rattles and blankets, for when kids want to play family. Or, fill it with safe medical supplies such as play bandages, thermometers and containers for aspiring front-line workers. Change out weekly or at the frequency of your choosing to always keep young minds guessing while fueling their creative tank.
Integrate favorite characters into imaginative play
Introducing your child’s favorite characters into play time can help to keep them engaged, especially when they can include them in their own storytelling. One example is the BRIO Disney Mickey and Friends: Mickey Mouse Record & Play Station, which allows children to craft their own travel story for Mickey as he rides around the wooden tracks. Using the ‘record-and-play’ function, kids can bring Mickey to life using their own voice and imagination to decide what he’s up to while on the road!
Upcycle and craft cardboard creations
Many families are getting more deliveries right to their home and with that comes plentiful cardboard boxes. Recycling is always a great idea, but before you do so, consider upcycling opportunities for your kids. With some basic crafting supplies and a touch of imagination, a large cardboard box can be transformed into a treehouse, restaurant, island hut and more. Medium and small boxes can be turned into cars, doll houses and beds for toys. With each delivery comes a new opportunity to create, and when children are done playing, you can still recycle the cardboard to support the environment.
The power of play has never been more important. By embracing each day and fostering new experiences through imaginative play, you’ll provide your kids with a much-needed escape with ample benefits.