How do you nurture your toddler's imagination? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 12-03-2002, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was wondering if anyone had some practical suggestions on ways to nurture a toddler's imagination and creativity.
Ds is 26 months and I've sort of decided to make this a priority in the coming months. But I'm not sure I know how to go about it. The first thing I did was declare NO MORE TV. He wasn't watching more than an hour and a half a week but that may be too much. And I put away his tv character toys. We draw and finger paint a lot. We've made sock puppets and painted faces on our fingers, we've pretended to be various animals...that's about all I've got. Any better ideas?
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#2 of 20 Old 12-03-2002, 03:18 PM
 
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I think the best thing you can do is follow your kids lead.

Eli started imaginative play big time at 2ish years old. I just go with whatever he is into. We catch lemurs under the sofa, I throw him imaginary food while he pretends to be a fish (a great big fish who prefers blueberries and apples).

We tend to build on books/Ladybug magazine. We made our own version of dragon bread after reading the latest Ladybug.

Another thing that has helped me nurture this is to stop limiting him/me. What I'm trying to say is that I don't try to get him to play with things in an "appropriate" way, or to play with just toys. If he wants to play dressup with a ball of yarn- that is just what we do.

So my rule of thumb is follow, don't lead, and to keep it simple (a couple jars of paint and plain paper works great- a regimented craft activity always bombs out here).

I want to add to this, or atleast edit it to make sure it makes sense but my sweet baby boy is waking up.

keep up the good work momma,
jeanie
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#3 of 20 Old 12-03-2002, 03:32 PM
 
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We have Play Doh, crayons, puzzles, buidling blocks, and Legos (lots of those). Sam doesn't know this yet, but he is getting a Lite Brite Cube. We hope to use this as a family and each build on a side. He also likes to make up games to our board games like Risk, Monopoly, and Clue.
We tend to follow his lead.

This week we are working on presents to give to our family. We are using paint and plaster. Sam thinks it is fun. His job is to tell us what color each of our hands or feet should be.

Mir
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#4 of 20 Old 12-03-2002, 07:05 PM
 
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I have girls, but two gifts which they have loved and which allow them so much room for creativity are a doll's house and a large wooden play house (out in the garden).

With both of those, they can act out loads and loads of scenarios. I join in about half the time...offering new suggestions, which they'll then go with (well, the older one goes with, and the younger one follows along ).

With the little doll house, they'll use any and every stuffed animal, figurine, etc., etc. in it.

We also have a huge box of 'arts and crafts' supplies, which they love - things to make collages, finger paints, regular paints, crayons, play doh, etc. They love that also...
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#5 of 20 Old 12-03-2002, 07:33 PM
 
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hmmm, well, my dd will be 2 in february, and she's really started picking up on imaginative play in the past few months. i second elismama -- try not to limit yourselves. often it's at meal times when she'll say a slice of banana or apple looks like a goose or car or whatever so my advice to you would be not to limit your imaginative activities to playtime, but try to incorporate using your imaginations throughout your day. and definitely follow your child's lead, but ask questions that beg for an imaginative answer. you may have to demonstrate first -- "hey this apple slice looks like a little boat! what does that slice of cheese look like?", etc. my dd also loves to "cook" with the real pots and pans, but it's often her magnetic alphabet letters she cooks, or last night these oversized checkers we have. i totally agree that toys don't have to be played with the "right" way. in fact i purposely mix things up sometimes.

a great book that i'm about halfway through is called "playful parenting" by lawrence cohen. he's got tons of info and ideas on connecting with your kids through play. you might check it out if you have a chance.

happy imagining!

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#6 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 03:06 AM
 
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How about things like a sandbox? Or other kinds of boxes, like with pasta, flour, or oats or something. My son is big into construction vehicles (I know, destruction of our precious world, but so it goes for now ...), and he really enjoys playing with dried beans to pretend that they're stones (I developed the idea as an alternative to our inflatable pool sandbox, which is in the garage).

You could pretend shop by taking a bag around the house to do grocery shopping. I'm not sure if that age is into dress-up or not, but you could start accumulating a dress-up box.

I got Toddler's Busy Book, which has some decent ideas. Actually, I think I got the bean idea from there.

I, too, encourage creativity by never limiting his ideas, if possible. If he says that something pink is brown, I even say something like, "Wow, you think that looks like brown? That's great. Mommy thinks it looks like pink for some reason." Everything is relative/variable, even colors, in my opinion. A funny side story: In my whole outsidethe-box approach, I once 'flew' a boat around the room when we were playing, and now when he lists things in the sky, he lists boats!

Good luck.
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#7 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 04:49 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally posted by beanma
often it's at meal times when she'll say a slice of banana or apple looks like a goose or car or whatever
Do you have the same problem I do? Once dd decides her food looks like something she won't eat it. Not then, or ever. If she sees me try to get rid of it or eat it myself she gets very upset so I end up sneaking it to the dog later.

When you are drawing or painting with your kids, do you draw things yourself or get them to do it all? Dd always wants me to draw things for her so we don't do it often.

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#8 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 10:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everybody! Great suggestions.
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#9 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 12:01 PM
 
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Hi, Super Pickle mama. I would like to echo what Elismama said. I think of my job as two part: (1) fueling and (2) getting out of their way.

Fueling means many things. I provide good raw materials (sand, dress-up collection, paint/etc, small and large blocks, etc). WHen I was little my parents got a few light wood blocks which were huge and painted them bright colors; we could make forts and whatever! I am in the process of making something similar for my little ones using sturdy wine boxes (Carlo Rossi ones are strongest!) I also provide non-directing attention, for instance echoing their creative constructions like "Oh, that's a phone? Hello!" or role-playing. This was a lot more work with #1; my toddler #2 mostly plays imaginatively with his big sis. Toddler imaginative play tends to be repetitive, because they learn by repetition; I remember playing "babies on a boat" with #1 about a million times. Really showing up and giving myself to my children's play is a gift that lights them up. (These days my 4 1/2 year old still loves to pretend I'm her less-experienced playmate on the play-structure, so I'm the only mama at the park using a baby voice...)

Getting out of their way means being on the look out for ways in which adult ideas might impose themselves on my children's imaginations. I avoid TV. Like Elismama said, I encourage creative use of toys rather than "intended," and favor toys which have no one "intended" use. And similarly I avoid adult-designed crafts like the plague, wanting to prolong as long as possible my children's belief that they are the master of their own materials. This tends to be a bit more boring for the parent (?), at least, my friends tend to look to more advanced/packaged toys and activities so that they themselves are a bit more entertained (SAHM-ing can be a marathon) but I find it very entertaining to see what my children think of next, and as I say, it's so much easier now with two!

Also, I keep very few toys out at any given time, so they make the most of a few key ones, and they look less to things and more to themselves for novelty. It's also less clean-up.

Have fun, Super Pickle! Again, I know that I am not saying anything new, just wanted to chime in because this is one of my favorite topics!
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#10 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 01:15 PM
 
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Quote:
My son is big into construction vehicles (I know, destruction of our precious world, but so it goes for now ...),
Eli too! We have Tonkas in several flavors here and Eli loves them. Playdough didn't really hold his attention until we started playing with it with small construction vehicles- now he will play for an hour with those and a butter knife. I don't much care for gas-guzzlers myself, I'm hoping that since we allow him to pursue this interest now he'll be over it by sixteen.

Quote:
WHen I was little my parents got a few light wood blocks which were huge and painted them bright colors; we could make forts and whatever! I am in the process of making something similar for my little ones using sturdy wine boxes
Hilary- This is a great idea. What are you painting them with? Tempra flakes off so much, I'd love an alternative.
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#11 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 02:27 PM
 
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Thanks for the playdough tip. My son wasn't interested in playdough or drawing until my husband drew/made cars, diggers, etc. with them. Now he thinks it's cool (he like to draw cars with us, etc., but he also just scribbles, so starting with something 'defined' also unleashed his creativity).

I, too, figure that I'll let him enjoy and explore those construction vehicles now and then we can have environmental discussions later -- it pervades our lives, anyhow, the discussions will occur naturally.
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#12 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 04:27 PM
 
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Eli's mama: I'm so glad you like my blocks idea. I loved what you wrote above. I will paint the boxes first with primer and then standard water-soluble house-paint in bright red, yellow, and blue. On some of the blocks, I'll let my daughter have at it (in the back yard, wearing a smock, on newprint), so there'll be some multi-colored blocks, too! I am choosing paint that I can buy in decently large quantity, will be wipe-able, and durable (I'm expecting some rough treatment!). I have been gluing and taping them so that they are air-tight (bugs love cardboard in Florida). At this point I am still collecting the boxes (imagine, a self-respecting mama scavenging at liquor stores!)--I have 8 of the robust Carlo Rossi's and I want at least 20. They stack so neatly in columns of 8 against a wall, so I figure storage is not an issue. The limiting factor may be my own stamina for priming and painting all six sides of so many blocks (yawn).

I remember on Christmas Eve when I was about five, lining up a couple of the wood blocks we had; I was making a bed so I could station myself by my bedroom door in the hopes of catching Santa creeping in to bring my stocking. (I did sleep there, but alas, Santa must have come in with stocking feet, because I missed him. Drats!) I also have photos of myself and about 8 friends each seated on a block at one of my birthday parties years later. You can make a bed, a chair, a wall, a house, a fort, what can't you make?

These cardboard ones will be light enough to throw but strong enough to hold the weight of a child. I'm hoping to finish it by Xmas. If you decide to do this, PM me!
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#13 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 05:47 PM
 
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mama2nicola -- no actually, dd doesn't mind eating the banana cars or whatever. i can see where a child might not want to, though. maybe you could do like eli's mama and let your dd be a fish or whatever creature she chooses and she can eat the banana fish food?? dunno if that would work or not.

dd loves for us to draw "face!" for her. i usually ask her what kind of face and she says "happy" and i ask what kind of hair and she might say "curly hair". i don't think there's anything wrong with drawing for your child. she does do some scribbling on her own, but sometimes if she's scribbling over something we've (i've) drawn she'll say "lost it!" in a panicky tone of voice. i think little ones just don't have too much control over the crayons yet, but coloring is one of her absolute favorite things to do. she also looooooves finger paint. she will do more of that herself although she still might ask me to help and she absolutely adores making playdough. the playing with it after it's made is okay, too, but making it -- pouring in the water and the flour and the salt and oh the food coloring -- nothing could be better. i've tried with the crayons to scribble myself and try to find shapes in the scribbles, but i think dd really wants to be able to control the crayon and if she can't do it herself, directing me is the next best thing. it's still creative as long as i let her call the shots and don't go off and do my own thing. she's really big on me drawing ladybugs, too.

the blocks sound great. i'd like to investigate that.

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#14 of 20 Old 12-04-2002, 07:15 PM
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Elismama, fraya - hello fellow trucker Moms! My ds always issues me a truck or tractor, "O drive this tractor" (my pronoun is always O).

My husband and I do allot of drawing for DS (trucks and tractors mostly) and it worried me at first but now he's drawing stuff, too. He can draw wheels!

I wholeheartedly agree with the follow their lead advice but you can put your .02 in too just don't take over. I have to come up with a new bath tub game everytime just to get him in the tub. Ummmmm..... how about we plow bubbles in the bath tub?
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#15 of 20 Old 12-05-2002, 12:04 AM
 
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These answers are great!

With ds, if I'm working in the kitchen, he'll play with the magnets on the fridge. You can buy those magnet backings used for business cards or just recycle the magnets that arrive as advertisements--cut into shapes, cover with different colors, and let him build pictures, make patterns, whatever. Also, we've started collecting plastic bottle tops (from water and soda, etc...); ds uses them to build, pattern, count, "drive". He sometimes gives them names and personalities. Dd wouldn't draw on paper until she got a chalkboard on an easel. It gave her a larger surface, easily erased, and the upright position eased motor-skill frustrations.

Just some ideas...

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#16 of 20 Old 12-05-2002, 02:24 PM
 
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My son is just 16 months old, and I am SO looking forward to the imaginitive play part of childhood. He already does funny things like making his dinosaurs growl and roar. He likes to bark at his stuffed dogs, too.
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#17 of 20 Old 12-05-2002, 05:28 PM
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I've been thinking about this thread allot and I realised probably the most inspiring thing for our son is to see us being creative. DH and I are both designers so we get right into building with duplo or setting up his train set. I can't tell you how proud I was the first time ds said, mimicing me, "I have an idea!"

And last night he set up his train set for the first time with a bridge and 2 switches and with a track going under the bridge - quite complicated. He said, "I built it myself!" So modelling creativity is important too.
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#18 of 20 Old 12-05-2002, 07:53 PM
 
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You mamas have some wonderful ideas. It never ceases to amaze me the amount of knowledge I get from these boards.
mirleehat exactly are you making for presents? Sounds very interesting and fun...
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#19 of 20 Old 12-06-2002, 12:35 AM
 
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Dd is 19 months old and loves to pretend she's a kitty or a dog or a bird or an airplane. I orginally showed her how and then she took off with it. When she's The Kitty she wants to be petted and fed pretend food. When she's the birdy she pretends to get scared and "flies" away to tweet at me. She's a total character, my kid. I think if you just get in there and play along or initiate imaginary play you will be surprised at how much fun you both will be having in no time.

Today's game? Indoor Disco Rave Party. Put on some stupid Ibiza dance mix, roll up the rug and get down with your toddler. My dd LOOOOOOOVED this.

Good luck
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#20 of 20 Old 12-06-2002, 08:22 PM
 
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There are several books out there that I have found helpful in getting my creative juices flowing. For example "The Toddler's Busy Book". Sometimes we play "Safari" w/our 26 mo DD. We "hide" a few stuffed animals around the house when it's dark and DD holds her flashlight and has to find them. I so much agree w/letting them use toys/items how *they* see them to be used.

Definitely keep your toddler away from the TV and computer stuff. (I see a lot of moms playing w/their toddler/child on the computer at our library; nevertheless, it still takes the place of true, hands-on, creative play.)

I have found that nurturing my child's creative side has forced me to look at so many things differently. Oh the education *we* gain from our children!
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