For kids the world is one big science lab. Everything is an experiment. Everything is something to be explored, played with, touched and tasted. Everything is wondrous and interesting, exciting and magical—even and especially the most ordinary things. A water bottle. The color blue. Aluminum foil. A cardboard box. An old pillow case. Because kids are so beautifully aware, awake and alert. They’re so beautifully connected to their imagination. They’re so beautifully inquisitive.
The book Recipes for Play: Creative Activities for Small Hands and Big Imaginations, written by Rachel Sumner and Ruth Mitchener, features an assortment of wonderful activities you can do with your kids to engage their imagination even more. (You can do these activities on your own, too. Because why not? All of us can use more play in our lives.) Below are five activities to try.
Build a house for fairies. As Sumner and Mitchener write, “The truth is that fairies, just like everyone else, need somewhere to live.” Of course. Find the best real estate inside or outside your home, which might be anything from a garden to a patio to a window ledge to a fireplace mantle. Then gather your materials. For instance, you might use leaves for doors, flowers for the roof and walnut shells for seating. The only rule is that whatever you pick must be fairy size. Naturally.
Create collages. Gather a variety of objects as your supplies—such as macaroni, dried leaves, dried lentils, feathers. Put the objects in ice trays or muffin tins. You’ll also need newspaper to cover the surface; paper; and glue (such as glue sticks and wands). To create a collage, glue the objects in any order, in any way to the paper.
Make edible paint. You’ll need plain Greek yogurt (or plain soy yogurt); an ice tray or muffin tin; and several colors of food coloring. Put the yogurt in the tray or tin. Mix in the food coloring—which you can make on your own.
For instance, juice frozen blueberries. Boil red cabbage for 15 minutes to yield purple. (Cut up half of a red cabbage. Place the leaves in a pot, and cover them with water. After 15 minutes, use a colander to strain the water into a bowl.) You can do the same with beets and dark leafy greens. For a more intense green, put the leafy greens in the juicer. Freeze any leftover food coloring in ice trays. Or use or discard within 2 weeks.
Your kids can play with this paint on virtually any surface, from paper to the fridge to themselves.
Get creative with painter’s tape. This is a great activity when the weather forces your family to stay inside. Use painter’s tape to play games, such as hopscotch. Use it to create a work of art. Use it to create roadways or entire cities. According to the authors, “Go over the couch, around the cat, under the coffee table. Erect bridges between items of furniture or go off-road with crazy gravity-defying streets.”
Race all sorts of boats. Visit any moving body of water, and start a race with different boats. What kinda boats? “If it floats, it’s a boat,” write Sumner and Mitchener. The days before your race, start collecting your vessels. You might collect anything from leaves to walnut shells to dried avocado skins to orange peels. You can also decorate the boats with any natural materials.
Try these activities with your kids, whatever their ages. Don’t underestimate the power of engaging the imagination. In fact, you might even have the most fun. Because it’s very possible that you’ve lost your sense of wonder, and could use some help with getting it back.
What are your favorite activities to do with kids?