Imaginative and creative play is a staple of childhood development. Without it, children don’t get the opportunity to learn and develop the skills necessary for self-expression.
Nowadays, though, the lasting inspiration of outdoor play is often traded for the instant stimulation of indoor technology. Children get more excited about an hour sliding their finger across a screen than thirty minutes on an actual slide. It seems that the outdoors have lost some of that magic appeal they possessed during our own childhoods. But, through the use of creative play equipment,there are ways you can bring the spark back to your child’s imagination.
Here’s a list of eight imaginative and creative play ideas to get you started:
- Build Your Own Back Garden Mud Kitchen
Dirt is good. It might not come out in the wash first time, but it will leave more than just an impression on your children’s clothes. Mud kitchens are a prime example of the benefits of good old-fashioned messy play.
If you don’t want to sacrifice your lawn to the inevitable mud slide, convert an old wheelbarrow instead. Simply mix two parts soil with one part sand and pour in a generous helping of water. Supply pots and pans for your children to ‘cook’ and dish up their favourite mud pie creations.
- Grow a Sunflower Fort from Scratch
A great way to get the children out in the garden during the summer is through a spot of gardening. Sunflowers are the perfect height for a secluded getaway, where children can safely gain their own independence.
By digging out a circular plot of land, children can create their own outdoor classrooms; a place to read and play pretend. As long as the sunflower seeds are planted in an area with plenty of sun, you should see the plants bloom in no time at all. Follow the instructions on the packet and create a hidden sunflower palace, in which your children’s creativity can also blossom.
- Create a Water Wall from Recycled Material
Children love getting wet. Putting together a water wall from old plastic containers can prove a real hit with curious youngsters. All you need are the right odds and ends, an hour or so of prep time, and buckets full of the wet stuff.
Water walls can be made from anything from old board or planks of wood to chain link fences. Use a staple gun or zip ties to attach your containers to the back board, making sure they are all lined up appropriately. Place a bin at the bottom to collect and reuse the water.
- Put Together a DIY Sensory Table
Water tables and sand tables provide your children with another outlet for their creativity. Water tables in particular are incredibly therapeutic and enable children to float boats, swim with fishes and create underwater worlds that will keep them entertained for hours.
Water tables and sand tables can be created from a plastic storage box mounted on a patio table, or even just an old toy wagon. All you need to do is fill up the container with your substance of choice, along with your children’s favourite toys.
- Construct Sculptures from Rocks and Stones
Another bountiful resource, rocks and stones can be used to create almost anything. Open-ended materials like this enable children to fully engage their sense of imagination, without limiting their creativity to a few simple tasks.
You could help your children decorate sculptures using a pour-paint technique, or even use a selection of rocks from the beach to construct a chocolate box arrangement (leave it up to them to decide which flavours are which!)
- Build a Beam for Perfect Balance
Creative play equipment that boosts children’s physical development is always a bonus. Placing a few planks of wood together to create a balance beam will help them fine tune their gross motor skills, as well as building a healthier mind.
Work together to choreograph creative routines that allow them to run, skip and jump along the beams, while encouraging them to make key decisions for themselves.
- Reintroduce the Magic with Your Own Fairy Garden
Imaginative and creative play can be sparked by the simplest of things. By bringing a touch of magic into your garden, you can create new learning opportunities for your children. Fairy gardens are easy to put together, but their sparkle will be enjoyed for a long time to come.
To create your garden, start by adding a few colourful plants and shrubs to a round planter. Using this as your base, you can add your child’s favourite, shiny items (including the fairies!) to the mix. Pretty pebbles, buttons, and even unused Christmas decorations can all help bring the garden to life.
- Get Artistic with Chalkboard Walls
Creative play equipment doesn’t have to take up acres of space. A simple chalkboard, attached to a fence, can be all the inspiration a child needs.
Choose colourful chalks that will show up vividly on the board and let your child go to town. Not only is this contained graffiti great fun; it also keeps them from drawing on your driveway and walls! For a messier alternative, why not let them finger paint on an old whiteboard instead.