Inspiring Imaginative Play in Older Children | AD

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I loved the preschool years. Where the kids spent all their time dressing up, playing with toys, acting out their favourite movies and going to nursery insisting that their name was Tinkerbell! Those years go so fast but it’s lovely to see older children also using their imaginations and enjoying imaginative play – even if they think they’re too old for traditional dressing up and role playing games.

How to inspire imaginative play in older children

Here are our top three tips for inspiring older children to play imaginatively, to be creative and step away from screens for just a little while. I know, it can be a challenge to inspire older children to spend time doing something that doesn’t involve video games or similar, but it’s actually really rewarding to suggest an activity to a child and see them enjoying it.

Base the activity around something they enjoy

If you try and get a ten year old to randomly start drawing, colouring or creating something, they’ll probably not enjoy it very much. But, if you theme the activity around something they already like and enjoy then you’re one step closer to finding imaginative play ideas that they’ll love to take part in.

Whether they love the dinosaurs of Jurassic World, endless building on Minecraft, the mini games of Roblox or wielding a lightsaber like their favourite Star Wars characters, you can use these as a great starting point for imaginative play.

For us, Star Wars is something that the children love. And so if we suggest drawing things from Star Wars, dressing up as Star Wars characters or making Star Wars Lego, we know it will be something the children will enjoy – especially if they can dress up as Star Wars characters whilst drawing or building!

Lego is fantastic for building on a child’s existing interests, letting them be creative, building sets but then using their imaginations to play out stories using their Lego creations or even create stop motion videos using the completed Lego sets.

There are Lego ranges for every interest – Star Wars, Super Mario, Minecraft, Indiana Jones – even space, dinosaurs and the simple joys of day to day life in Lego City.

Try and vary the activity

We often find ourselves doing the same things, day after day, week after week. But, the best way to keep older children engaged and interested is to vary the activities.

One time we’ll make creations out of Lego or Knex. Another, we’ll do some drawing or make models using whatever’s in the recycling bin. We’ll see if the kids want to make costumes, act out scenes from movies or create videos using toys and other things from around the house.

Time the activities well

We’ve found that it’s much easier to inspire the children to do something different and use their imaginations if it’s one of the first activities we do. We usually suggest doing something imaginative on a weekend morning when they’re well rested, followed by lunch and then screen time, watching movies or playing games together as a family in the afternoon.

It can also be nice to do something fun as a nice transition after school and before they start their homework or wind down for dinner. But, the best time to inspire the children to use their imaginations will vary from family to family.

For us, the best times are when we have at least an hour to kill, when the children aren’t tired and when we’re not too busy generally. It’s also nice when we’re all around to get in on the action. I know that as a family we love to see how can draw the best stormtrooper, create the best Super Mario level out of Lego or team up to make the best stop motion movies. Imaginative play can turn into really lovely, quality family time whatever the children’s ages.

I hope this helps you to inspire your older children to use their imaginations. Build on their existing interests, vary the activities and time it well. Then I’m sure your children will love whatever activity you suggest for them


  • Donna Wishart

    Donna Wishart is married to Dave and they have two children, Athena (12) and Troy (11). They live in Surrey with their two cats, Fred and George. Once a Bank Manager, Donna has been writing about everything from family finance to days out, travel and her favourite recipes since 2012. Donna is happiest either exploring somewhere new, with her camera in her hand and family by her side or snuggled up with a cat on her lap, reading a book and enjoying a nice cup of tea. She firmly believes that tea and cake can fix most things.

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