Your toddler is exploring the world in imaginative and creative ways. Here are play ideas and creative activities to support and boost toddler imagination and creativity.

Toddler play: why it's important for imaginative and creative development

Play fosters creativity and imagination in toddlers. And this is important, because toddlers use their growing imaginations and creativity to:

  • ​​explore the world and their place in it

  • better understand themselves and other people

  • explore and express feelings

  • ​test out new ideas and ways of solving problems.

What to expect with your toddler’s imagination

Your child has lots of thoughts and ideas, and is keen to express them all in creative, imaginative ways. Your toddler will probably enjoy:

  • messy play

  • singing aloud to songs and rhymes

  • making ‘music’ and dancing

  • pretend play and copying the behaviour of grown-ups and older children.

Dressing up and pretend play start at around 15 months. Your child might imagine she’s driving a bus or putting out a fire as a firefighter. If you provide plenty of props, like old clothes and hats, it gives your toddler lots of ways to play at being a grown-up.

Your toddler learns by copying what others do – especially you! For example, by the time your toddler is two years old, he might imagine, that he’s talking on the phone, but in real life he’s holding a spoon to his ear and babbling to himself. Or he might pretend to cook dinner using leaves and grass he’s found in the backyard.

Music of all sorts can have your toddler imagining fantastic things like flying or floating in space.

Moving to favourite songs, splashing or pouring water, digging sand, and squeezing paint between fingers and toes will all be popular play activities too.

Your child might also enjoy playing with water in the bath. She might test what her toys can do by pouring water from one to another, dunking them underwater – or using them to empty the bath! If your toddler is playing around water, always make sure you’re there to supervise. Toddlers are naturally curious and often fearless, so they’re particularly at risk of drowning.

You’ll see your child expressing his imagination and ideas in all kinds of creative ways.

Play ideas and creative activities to encourage toddler imagination

You can try the following activities to encourage your toddler to put her imagination into action. It’s good to follow your child’s lead with most of these activities:

  • Read books and tell stories together about wonderful places and creatures. Talk about the stories with your toddler.

  • Sing​ nursery rhymes and encourage your toddler to make up his own actions to songs.

  • Play dress-ups with old clothes, handbags and hats.

  • Make some sounds and rhythms with musical instruments. Listening to different types and styles of music can also support your toddler’s imagination and be lots of fun.

  • Scribble with crayons and paper and let your child draw from her imagination.

  • Give your child toys like blocks and cardboard boxes for open-ended play.

  • Give your toddler time to play outdoors. This could be a walk in the park, on the beach or anywhere with new sights and sounds that will inspire your toddler to grow creatively.

  • Set up water play from 12 months. A bucket of water with bubbles and a few plastic cups are all your toddler needs. Always supervise your child for safe fun with water.

All children develop at their own pace. If you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s play development, it’s a good idea to talk with your paediatrician or General Practitioner (GP).

© raisingchildren.net.au, translated and adapted with permission

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