Developing Imagination Through Literature

Help children use their imaginations to bring their favorite stories to life.

By Susan Stephenson
Jul 11, 2014



Developing Imagination Through Literature

Jul 11, 2014

Hopefully our children know how to play by using their imaginations. We've read to them from the moment they arrived, we've talked and sung to them, we've encouraged imaginative play -- with books, rhymes, dress ups, toys, cardboard boxes, and paint. But what if we come into contact with kids who haven't developed their imaginations? Through marriage, helping out at a school, meeting new relatives or neighbors, we may meet kids who need to be taught how to play the "old-fashioned" way.

One suggestion is to play WITH them. Use books as a springboard. Read a story together and then suggest making a game about it. (If it's my game, I get to grab the best roles like Pirate Chief or Mean Ole Lady -- though I admit I have to reel in my tendency to want to be producer, director, and star too!) It really helps to nudge kids towards involvement by asking them questions, or suggesting roles for them. Once children begin to have ideas, I gently withdraw until all I have to do is throw in the occasional nasty chuckle, or guard the treasure with my feet up, reading.

Some children haven't learned to take turns or share. They may need reminding not to dominate the game. Literature can help here too. Look for children's books where young characters have a similar problem, read them together, and act out some scenes from the books. This is a light-handed way to reinforce a life lesson children need to learn. Other kids have lives that are totally dominated by screen entertainment. I've found that creating pretend games about books with movie tie-ins can help children allow literature into their lives.

Lots of games can be adapted to suit a favorite book. Fairy tales are wonderful fodder. You can take a standard hide-and-go-seek game and add some characters -- say a giant or a witch -- seeking as many Jacks or Hansels as you have. Chasing games can be even more fun if your teams are Gryffindor and Slytherin. Outdoor games also ensure kids get fresh air and exercise, but indoor ones are a wonderful way to enjoy a wet afternoon. Encourage kids to act out stories themselves, or with toys or puppets. It's a great way to involve literature in children's imaginative play.

Both outdoor and indoor imaginative play are more fun with the addition of props. Lengths of material, old hats, pipe cleaners, cardboard tubes and pieces, and old makeup can all be put to good use, and will encourage creativity far more than a standard costume purchased from a store. Children love to make things and I find they become absorbed in creating scenery or costumes for dolls. I love to listen to them discussing how they can best bring to life this or that book we've read!

Do your children have a favorite story they love to bring to life with their imaginations? Share it on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.


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