during my first few years as a new mother, i filled much of my spare minutes hunched over parenting books –how to bring my kids the greatest joy, how to talk to my babies and then my toddlers, how to have a tidy welcoming home with little ones, how to get a baby to sleep 12 hours at night (lol), how to do this and how to do that. don’t do this, do a lot of that. wait, do more of this. yet the next book cautioned and advised to never ever do more of that.
while so much of it was very helpful, my biggest take away as i read the contradictions from book to book and tried a few of the proposed methods –realizing some worked and some didn’t, was that there wasn’t one way to do any of it. which is why there isn’t just one parenting manual we’re all given upon leaving the hospital after birth. josh and i discovered this rather quickly, since our first two little ones, while just 16 months apart in age, respond differently to literally everything. and now with 5 little ones here under our roof, we’ve learned we must teach and respond, support and encourage, praise and discipline and even vocalize and show love 5 different ways.
but one thing has remained constant and true over here as josh and i parent our little ones case by case each day, and that has been doing our all to foster the creative spirits all children arrive in our arms possessing. little ones with big imaginations and minds that aren’t yet inhibited by the social pressures or norms society grabs ahold of, without yet knowing or understanding how heartbreaking and devastating our world around us at times can be. just like each child is different, i know every home and family situation is different, too. but i do think there is power in helping our kids be kids, which really comes down to letting our kids play.
you don’t need a big fancy playroom or a massive treehouse in a backyard to foster an imagination. you don’t need a million toys or the proper dress-ups and accessories, either. my kids will find a way to make a blender tool from our kitchen into a sword, an umbrella into an aircraft, the underneath of mama’s desk into the cave entrance of a mountain, a blanket as a cape. it’s the beauty of being a kid! finding a way, using their imagination to fill in the gaps and just go with it. and i’ve noticed, as i’ve stepped out of the way and just let them figure much of it out on their own, the magic really starts to happen.
it’s been thrilling to see our baby girls (17 months old today! WHAT!?) begin to be included in all the play that happens in our apartment with their older siblings. that’s not to say our playtime is free of arguments or occasional tears and accidental boo-boos, but as they work together, i not only see a beautiful bond being built among siblings, but i see also beautiful minds coming into their own as they create, think, try and figure things out, and create some more.
and while i totally don’t believe in having all the proper costumes for all the proper activities (firstly, where would you even store them all?!) just a quick plug that a lot of costumes will be largely discounted this coming week in most shops and online stores as halloween wraps up so it’s a great time to snag anything that could work for daily playtime in the year to come. :) our kids have worn these astronaut suits since they were astronauts for halloween several years ago.
a few other little things i’ve found helpful in fostering imaginative play around the clock with little ones:
- if you do have a costume bin, have it readily out in their main play-space so they can access it on their own. (i know i prefer ours to be out of sight because it looks so messy, but it defeats the purpose when it’s hidden away.)
- the same goes for other creative gadgets like art supplies — i’ve noticed all five of my kids gravitate towards our art table to color and write and build when i have their art supplies at their height where they don’t have to ask me to get the crayons or paper down (i do put the paint supplies higher these days because i need to supervise that with the baby girls right now), but more creating takes place when the supplies and place to create are all set to go and accessible at any hour. here’s a tour of our playroom where you can see more of how i organize the art supplies.
- i don’t have anything against televisions, but we’ve never had one. i just know myself too well to know it’d always be on in the background of our home (i love me my shows!) and i fear it’d be a main attraction in our space. while there is nothing wrong with tv (we have tablets with plenty of specific shows and movies and educational apps we’ve chosen for occasional screen-time for our little ones), i do think it’s beneficial for everyone in the family to limit the time a television is on when something else could be happening in that space.
- this one is trickier for me, but i’ve been trying to let go of having our space be so crazy tidy. i want my kids to be kids and that means making messes and not giving them the pressure of feeling like they have to do a big pick up every ten minutes. i’m not talking about letting the entire apartment get dirty (there is a difference!), but not everything needs to be in its proper place all day long.
- in the spirit of letting kids be kids, we let our kids be kids everywhere. it’s meant saying “why not?!” when they ask to wear their dress-ups on the streets of manhattan, to taking said dress-ups with us on trips (anyone remember when we ran into a dragon and a couple of knights at a castle in switzerland?!)
- reading and reading and reading to them some more! and when doing so, pausing on all the pictures in the picture books and having them discover what is happening by the pictures alone, and maybe even discovering or building on the story by exploring the pictures in a detailed way.
the boys went to space the other week in the playroom and beatrice and madalena readily helped prepare their mission for take off. i pulled out the camera because i still hadn’t taken any photos of the girls in their little astronaut suits and i’m so glad i did. we got them for the girls earlier in the summer and they love wearing them and feeling included with their siblings so i’m glad i finally got a few photos before they outgrow them! a very big photo dump below because you know i can never share just one or two.
just noticed beatrice has a doctor syringe in her hand here! ha- look out boys! looks like we are getting shots before blast off!
i know this looks dangerous but this is how my boys play! chairs ON THE TABLE because this was their rocket. :)
samson on the (hand-drawn cardboard) controls!
conrad asked for the umbrellas and then this happened with the chair turned upside down. it was a space shuttle!
madalena apparently walking in her little space bubble on…. the moon?!
i see you, samson!
first time for pigtails in space, no?!
i love how madalena scrunches up her nose these days when she smiles!
happy play time!
and as so many of you often have the best tips and ideas along these sorts of topics, PLEASE leave any other tips in the comments below of how you foster imaginative play in your own homes with your little ones so we all can benefit from your advice!