My almost 3 year old’s imagination is going full throttle. Tigers roam our house. We light camp fires in our living room and she drives a car like a maniac. I used to really struggle playing with her for extended periods of time but imaginative play has changed everything.

I used to sit alongside her as she stacked blocks for what seemed like hours on end. Great that something amused her for so long but a bit of a bummer that she wanted me to play with her. I tried hard to focus at this type of play but struggled. It was mind-numbing.

Shouldn’t I like playing with my child? I could like it for a couple of minutes and then I got bored. I judged myself for it. I found myself either on my phone or tablet, only half paying attention to her.

Then everything changed.

Her imagination unlocked somewhat suddenly and we were introduced to an entirely new kind of play: imaginative play.

I wasn’t expecting to absolutely LOVE it.

We can entertain ourselves easily without the need for toys. Instead of me telling her a story we now make them up together. We build on each others thoughts and ideas creating wonderful and silly scenarios.

Yesterday there was a tiger in her bedroom so she decided we needed to hide under her covers. I couldn’t quite fit in so the tiger grabbed me and started to drag me across the floor. She jumped out to rescue me, grabbed hold of my ankle and pulled me in the opposite direction. After a bit of tug-of-war she went over to the tiger and pet him. This turned the tiger into a nice, happy animal she told me. I was saved!

Everyday yields something new. I can see the wheels in her head turning as she thinks about what’s coming next. We have lots of laughs together and I can now spend a significant amount of time playing with her.

In fact, it’s quite easy.

Why I’m loving Imaginative Play

When I stop to think about why this type of play is so much more enjoyable for me I’m flooded with reasons.

  1. It’s forcing me to be creative. My imagination is engaged as much as hers. Something I don’t get to do in most other areas of my life.
  2. We can be silly without judging each other. Anything goes. There’s no wrong answer.
  3. We are fully present with one another. We need to pay attention to each other in each moment. It holds us in the present state without any need to think about the past or future. It is a practice of mindfulness, which significantly enhances happiness.
  4. We are equals. Neither of us is leading the game. We are sharing control.
  5. We come up with some pretty silly scenarios which usually means a lot of laughter. It is bonding us in a different way and making our relationship stronger.
  6. We share a memory of the playtime that can’t be replicated with anyone else. We can tell others about it or recreate it with someone else but it will never be the same. It’s our special moment. Our inside joke sometimes.
  7. It’s transferable. We can continue to play when we leave the house.
  8. We can use it to talk about feelings and lessons. Elephant hit the owl – how do you think the owl feels? Why did the elephant hit the owl? What would make it better?
  9. We can use our imagination to calm down. Instead of asking her to take a deep breath I ask her to help me blow up an imaginary balloon.
  10. I feel so much closer to her. I can play with her much longer. I’m happier because of this and so is she.

Imagination has bonded us in a way I didn’t know we were missing. It makes our days go by quicker and it’s freeing to have fun being ourselves.