Let Your Child’s Imagination Lead Play & Learning

When I was the parent of a young toddler an older friend told me, “The days are long, but the years are short.”  That statement is true on so many levels. Young children are busy. Their minds are constantly in motion.  Experienced parents agree that young children are happiest when they are engaged. Having “tried and true” activities that are always a hit with your child will help you both stay happy. These activities provide the biggest amounts of fun and are often the simplest ideas that let your child’s imagination lead the way. Making “discoveries” is how children learn.

Open-Ended Play

Girl playing with paper airplaneFor young children, playing is learning. In fact, play is the foundation of all learning. It is up to us as parents to allow more time for play, especially open-ended play, which doesn’t have any rules or directions, children simply follow their imaginations. Open-ended play expands language, promotes creativity and encourages social interaction.

Your child can use an open-ended toy in a variety of ways. Blocks, pretend food, doll houses and action figures are all examples of open-ended toys. A good guideline for open-ended play is “the more passive the toy, the more active the play.” Children explore, discover, create and learn through play.

Tried and True Activities

Here are some of my favorite “tried and true” activities:

  • Cute sock puppetsMake a bird feeder – using almost any material
  • Build a fort
  • Have a dance party (play freeze)
  • Blow bubbles
  • Have a tea party
  • Make sock puppets
  • Decorate a large box
  • Decorate cookies
  • Use bubble wrap, leaves, sticks, vegetables or anything to paint
  • Build an obstacle course
  • Play Simon Says and take turns being Simon
  • Look at photo albums together and encourage your child to make up stories about the pictures
  • Play with the water hose
  • Take a hike and make up a story with your child about your adventure
  • Visit a new playground

Here’s a book list that’s sure to inspire fun for you and your little one:

View complete list

Sherry Hess

As the Early Childhood Learning Coordinator, Sherry is focused on engaging young children and their families in play-based early learning experiences. The Learn & Play Bus and its service are at the heart of her work. Sherry has a background in early childhood education.