Awesome ways to spark your child's imagination

Your child's world is fueled by imagination. Make sure his tank is full by helping him exercise his creative power in six amazing ways.

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  • Anyone who's listened to a long, fantastical story from a child knows their imaginations are wonderful. Secret worlds, unique animals and characters with interesting names all live in the minds of children. As we age, we tend to let our imaginations dwindle. If your child seems stymied, bored or lacking in wonderment, he might need a boost of imagination power. Spark it in one of these six ways.

  • Drawing

  • Paper and crayons make a good conduit for developing imagination. Sometimes it's hard to guess what a child is drawing. I suggest asking them to tell you about their creations. Be prepared to hear about the creative details. My children are always surprised when I sit down and draw with them. We have fun being silly together.

  • Play along

  • When children engage in pretend play, they use their imaginations. If they come to you to help set up a zoo or visit a restaurant, play along. Ask questions, compliment them on using their imaginations so well and enjoy what they are doing.

  • Recently my youngest daughter was tucking her stuffed animals into bed for a rest right as I was trying to make it. They were "hurt" from a dragon blowing fire on them. Instead of making the bed, I let her animals stay resting until they felt better. Play along, and you'll see how fun playing can be.

  • Get outside

  • Nature needs no dressing up. It can inspire and refresh. Make an effort to take your children to places where they can run and play outside. Introduce them to the idea of fairy houses and see if they want to build one. Take a hike, visit a new park or take a trip to a beautiful location.

  • On a family camping trip to the redwood forests of northern California, my children spent hours playing near a large fallen tree. I distinctly remember hearing their voices as they ran up, around and over playing pirates. They didn't miss the TV one bit.

  • Write a story

  • Anything can happen in a story. Encourage your children to write, or write a story together. My daughter likes to play a simple story writing game. Start with a piece of paper and a pencil. The first person writes a sentence and then passes the paper to the next person in the group. That person reads the sentence and adds one of his own. Continue for a few rounds until the paper is full. Then read the story to the group.

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  • Ample writing prompts are available online, but kids often have great ideas in their heads. Putting them down on paper makes every kid a creative writer.

  • Listen

  • Too often I say "Not now, I'm busy" when my children want to talk to me. It's important to listen to the things children want to tell you, including their silly stories or jokes that don't quite make sense. Validate their imaginative thoughts by giving your full attention to them. And try to laugh if it's supposed to be funny. If you ask children questions that require thought and creativity, like "What kind of animal would you like to be?" while visiting a zoo, take the time to listen to their response.

  • Clean slate

  • There are many wonderful children's toys available. Some, however, are very prescribed, meaning there aren't a lot of different ways to play with them. If you offer your children basic toys, or everyday objects instead of toys, they will be allowed to use their imaginations to play any way they choose. Rotate toys occasionally, putting some away and bringing others out. Having new things to play with will help you children engage their imaginative sides.

  • Children will change as they grow, but one thing they should never lose is their imaginations. Keep your child’s unique imagination active throughout childhood. Life will be more interesting and vibrant for everyone.

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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