kids

A definitive list of 5 ways to nurture your child’s imagination.

Moose Toys
Thanks to our brand partner, Moose Toys

I’m not an imaginative-play kind of mum.  

Don’t get me wrong, I am in complete awe of those parents who shake off their adult worries by getting down on the floor and mooing like a cow with their kid, or popping a tea towels in the back of their t-shirt and ‘flying’ around the room like a superhero. 

But I am not one of those parents, and I never will be.  

For a long time, I berated myself for this (to add to the plethora of things to guilt yourself about as a parent). 

But then I realised, I nurture my kids’ imagination in lots of other ways, none of which require me to put an Elsa costume on thankfully. 

Here's exactly what they are.

1. Nature play

I love doing this with the kids, because basically "Nature Play" is just a fancy way of saying we go to the park or down to the creek and we play in, well, nature. Sometimes that means lying on the grass with my seven-year-old and looking up at the clouds and telling each other what they look like. Sometimes that means skimming rocks on the water (or in the case of my 3-year-old ‘plopping’ rocks in the water. Close enough). Other times it’s collecting pretty leaves and bringing them home to trace or stick into a book. 

At this time of year, we like to collect those seed pods with the big circular seeds in them, hollow them out, and then race them down the creek – I remember doing this as a kid too and love doing this with my boys. 

What we do in nature depends on the day, the weather and where we are, but it is always lots of fun, and I almost feel like I'm seeing their brains expanding as they explore, imagine and discover new things.

2. Toys and TV shows (with learning involved!)

When I found the TV show Octonauts I knew I had hit the jackpot in terms of kids’ television. This show is great – it is so educational with storylines about all kinds of animals and different parts of the world. We watch it on ABC iView but I know it's also on Netflix, Stan and YouTube too. The kids (and I'm counting myself in there too) are learning complex geography and science facts without even realising it.

Image: Supplied.

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Recently I realised I should take all that great learning from the TV show and encourage creative play around it with the Octonauts toys. Well, this has been a hit! Their imaginations run wild developing scenarios and adventures for the Octonauts crew to go on. 

Image: Supplied.

My youngest particularly loves sliding Captain Barnacles and Kwazii out of the Octopod, putting them in their different GUP Vehicles and sending them around the world. I love hearing him chatting to himself while he dreams up scenarios for them, saying things like “today our adventure is on the Amazon River, we need to save those crocs”. How did my three-year-old learn that? 

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Image: Supplied.

3. Drawing, arts and crafts

I don’t always love arts and crafts – setting up ALL the things for an activity the kids enjoy for ten minutes and then move on from, leaving me with a sky-high mess to clean up…

But I have a trick, I let them do ‘free rein’ arts and crafts within parameters. 

Basically, I set up the art and crafts on the kitchen table with an old tablecloth underneath and I'll put out a variety of things that don’t make too much mess like beading, drawing, tracing, stamping, painting with watercolours and making creatures out of dough. Once all this is laid out, I let them just go for it, I’ll sit nearby and be on hand if they need help, but otherwise they just create.

My youngest is a fan of painting, everything comes out a bit blobby but the colours he uses are gorgeous! My eldest is brilliant at drawing and has a real eye for detail, lately he’s been drawing funny faces and he really gives them some interesting features like big quirky ears or funny buck teeth. 

4. Unstructured play

Ooh, I do like a bit of unstructured play, it’s great for the kids’ brains and it gives me a chance to get some washing done or put dinner on nearby. 

Unstructured play is essentially giving the kids space to create their own games. It’s all those moments when I say “go play” and send them off to do their own thing. My kids are very into coming up with games on the trampoline, they put pillows and blankets on there and create their own little world. Sometimes they will put all their stuffed animals on there and pretend they are having a big sleepover. 

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Other times they do an ‘under the sea’ theme and all the Octonauts toys get put in the middle and they pretend they are part of the ‘crew’ and run around the trampoline exploring and having adventures. Imaginations can run wild with unstructured play (and truly does drain the batteries before a night of rest!).

Image: Supplied.

5. Reading books

I think one of the great joys of being a parent is reading to my children. I love the experience of snuggling up on the couch with a stack of storybooks and reading them to my boys. 

It feels comforting and connecting, but also it is such a great way for us to start imaginative conversations. We will finish a story and I’ll say something like ‘what do you think happened next?’ and my kids will come up with all kinds of imaginative ideas. Often when we do this my eldest will come back to me hours later and say, “I was thinking about that story, and do you think the character….”, so I know that the stories and the ideas they generate are percolating and growing their minds, which is just wonderful.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Moose Toys
The Octonauts are BACK with a brand new toy line based on the popular series Octonauts: Above & Beyond now streaming on Netflix, ABC iView, Youtube and Stan! With strong quirky characters, beautiful visuals and a strong educational angle which focuses on saving wildlife and exploring new terrains, it's the ultimate show for young kids 3-6. The toy line by Aussie company Moose Toys boasts a range of highly detailed figurines, vehicles, playsets and plush to spark children’s imaginations and take them on their own Octonauts Adventure right in their own homes!