5 Ways to Foster Your Child’s Imagination

The average American parent spends hundreds of dollars on toys for their children each year, but the grandest of all “toys” is simply a well-developed imagination. Imagination turns sticks into swords, or spoons, or paddles, or a fire to warm your hands in the deep forest under the picnic table.

From my limited experience, imagination comes pretty naturally to children. My desire as a mom is to foster it and channel it toward what is good and true and beautiful.

Drawing from the excellent tongue-in-cheek advice in Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Childthese are a few ways I’m seeking to help my children’s imagination blossom.

Five simple ways to foster your child's imagination

One of the highlights of Will’s summer has been catching and playing with frogs

Read good stories

Stories ignite our imagination and shape our affections.

Sometimes imaginative play is lackluster. Sometimes it borders on depressive or mean or ugly.

Make time to pour in more good stories: stories where good conquers evil, where true beauty is magnified, and truth is vindicated. Read stories that aspire to the noble and embrace the adventure in common things. (Here is a growing list of our favorite picture storybooks.)

Turn off the electronics

In his poetic rant against the television Roald Dahl claimed the TV


Sometimes a movie is just the sanity-saving “babysitter” I need. With few exceptions though, electronics promote passive reception, not active imagination.

Maybe my kids are just weird, but even a short video dramatically decreases their ability to entertain themselves.

Send them outside

Sometimes my kids drag their feet when I tell them it’s time to go outside to play. The funny thing is, it usually only takes five minutes in the great outdoors to become totally engrossed in play.

So, when they don’t want to play outdoors, I tell them to play for ten minutes and then I’ll let them come back inside. I can count on one hand the amount of times they’ve wanted to.

Let them get bored

Don’t fill your schedule with so many structured activities and planned play dates that they don’t have time to just be kids.

Don’t always micromanage everything

Have you ever read a kid’s book from decades ago and been shocked at the free-reign children were given (and how maturely they often handled it)?

My tendency is to be a mother-hen type mom. Joshua wisely encouraged me that it’s okay to let them learn to play together without my constant interaction.

Let them figure out their own games. Let them make up their own stories. Let them practice working together. Let them learn to say “please” and “sorry” without needing your reminder.

How do you foster your child’s imagination? 

  May be linked up at Mama MomentsGrowing HomeHealthy 2Day ,Works for MeWalking RedeemedGraced SimplicityFabulously Frugal & Simple Lives

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

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  1. says

    I wish more people would let their children explore their imagination! I wish they would quit letting them watch so many movies when they say they are “bored.” I wish they would read stories and pretend things! I started when my niece was still really small to pretend when we read stories. It just came naturally to me I guess since I have a very active imagination. We pretended to “eat” the food on the pages or we would “pet” the animal pictures. We’d talk about what car was ours and who drove the other ones on the page. Then we’d “go camping” on the living room floor. We’d pretend to be the characters in a book we just read while we ate dinner. Oh, there are so many ways and it’s such fun! My nephews pretend just as much as my niece did. The three–year-old has by far the best imagination! What other child his age would tell you with a straight face that there was a hippopotamus outside in the yard and then would wave to him when he passed a window? (He did tell me confidentially that there really wasn’t one out there; he was just pretending.)

    Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox. :P Loved the post, Anna.

    • anna says

      I don’t mind sharing the soapbox with you, Bekah! :-) Thanks for all the fun ideas! We had to work with Will at one point to make sure that he let us know that he was teasing, because his imagination and memory are both so active, that sometimes he’d imagine some very vivid “memories”—

  2. says

    I whole-heartedly agree, Anna! I’ve noticed that when we do let our children watch a video, especially if it is longer than usual, they come away from the screen with this disengaged, glazed over look. Maybe it is just our children, but that alone continues to encourage my hubby and me to strictly limit screen time.

    When I hear the words “I’m bored”, I like to offer housework as a solution. ;)

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