Posted in Education, Family, parenting, toddlers

Imaginative Play

I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children! 

There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.

“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.

Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.

By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.

Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.

For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.



If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.


You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.

(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)




I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they Vet-Clinic-Dramatic-Play-Activity-1024x683know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.




Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.

Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.





Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.

Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).


Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.

If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!

This is a great article with some more ideas.


Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys

Posted in Family, health, parenting, toddlers, Uncategorized

Toys Do Not Equal Happiness

I am a reformed hoarder. As a librarian I work in an industry of hoarders. My whole system of work is about recruiting items and storing history and information for the general public. But over the years, and many many many weedings later, I have really understood the power of quality over quantity.

So I applied this to my home life and have read a lot of great resources on the topic of minimalist living. More importantly, being a minimalist with children.

Part of being a minimalist is helping your children realize the importance of living without material items making you happy. This is easier said than done. Luckily we don’t have cable so my children do not see many commercials but when we go other places, advertisements are all over the television. And they look so cool! And fun! And every new toy I see I want to get for them because that will make them happy…and then I snap back into the real world and remember we have small house, a small budget, and no need for it.


The thing about it is you want to inspire your children to play more. That may sound a little counterproductive if you take their toys away but it really isn’t. You want to keep things that inspire them, make them use their imaginations, and for God sake go outside once in awhile. Me personally, when I weeded through my daughter’s room I kept her puzzles, books, play ponies, two baby dolls and clothes, and dress up items. Most of the other toys were donated. That is not to say she doesn’t have plenty of things to play with, even if they aren’t toys.

It can get tempting and I have read blogs where parents NEVER let their kids get toys or items. I think that is a wee bit extreme I am just very selective now of what comes into the house. So, here are some ideas for gifts and items for toddlers and kids that aren’t just toys.


Blankets and Sleeping Bags- My daughter could play with blankets for hours, and some days when we’re stuck inside she does. She plays camping, makes sheet forts, makes dresses, has play picnics, etc etc. Great thing about blankets is I have one space for them, so when she gets too many, I ask her which one she wants to get rid of.

Kitchen Tools- Whenever I update something in the kitchen I ask my daughter if she wants the old one for her play kitchen. So she has real measuring cups, mixing spoons, and a spatula to play with. This eliminates the need for so many toy items that are smaller and usually end up all over the living room.

Memberships- The intangible gifts probably won’t be appreciated right away by the little ones. However, when summer hits and they want to go to the pool at your YMCA or to your local Zoo (if they have a fee) then remind them about their gift they got from you (or grandparent or aunt Millie, whoever).

Gift Cards- another intangible. I think adding pictures of what the gift card is for will help them get excited. Make a handmade card with ice creams on it and a gift card for an ice cream date, or a movie date.

Lessons- Maybe a toddler won’t appreciate piano lessons, but an older child might. Maybe there’s a unique instrument that you have seen out or at the library or in a movie. Maybe your child likes to draw and wants to get better. Maybe they want to be a better swimmer.

Dress Up Clothes- Yes, these can start to get out of hand just like regular clothes or toys if you’re not careful. But the whole point of limiting toys and clutter is to promote your child’s imagination and creativity. I think that is exactly what dress up clothes can do! Just keep it to a few items. If they get something new, they have to get rid of something old.

Art Supplies- these go fast at my house, I don’t know about anywhere else. Markers run out, crayons get snapped in two, paper gets used, coloring books fill up within a few days. So art supplies are always a great way to go.

Bubbles- same as art supplies.


Some other articles I found helpful: 


Great article about living as a minimalist with kids and why to start it in the first place.


This mother has two posts about taking her children’s toys away and I love both of them.