Wednesday, October 15, 2014

5 tips for encouraging imaginative play {Begin Again Toys Balance Boat}

So much of our day is structured. We run from one activity to the next and there is not a whole lot of unaccounted for time throughout the day to simply sit back, relax, and enjoy our surroundings. With recess being a mere 10-15 minutes at school and homework piling up, free time for kids can become priceless. Imaginative play is a great way to develop social skills, language skills, and problem solving skills. I try to encourage imaginative play in our home as much as possible.  
5 tips for encouraging imaginative play

5 tips to help encourage imaginative play

  • Schedule time for free play. In this day and age we are constantly running from one appointment to the next. With after school activities and play dates our days can become overrun with commitments. Make a conscious decision to make time for free play. 
  • Let it go. Be okay with the fact that there will be a little bit of a mess. A little mess is a very small thing to worry about in the grand scheme of things and coloring outside the lines can lead to beautiful artwork. Little pieces of paper strewn about take mere minutes to pick up once playtime is over – but during pretend play those pieces of paper may be the snow your child needs to see in order to win his/her Olympic metal in skiing.
  • Encourage your child by asking questions but be careful to resist the urge to instruct. Asking how something works or why something happened during imaginative play is a great way to get the ball rolling, but creating a whole scenario or jumping in to referee a situation will not encourage children to take action and be the driving force behind playtime.
  • Get outside. I am a huge advocate for spending time outdoors whenever possible. Weather we are riding bikes, drawing with chalk, digging in dirt, or leading a safari through the backyard; spending time outdoors provides a whole new window of pretend play possibilities.
  • Provide open-ended toys for children to play with. Toys that encourage creativity and imagination while providing freedom from structure are great. Dress up clothing, Arts supplies like paint and paper, as toys that do not come with a set of rules in order to be played with are all good examples. Let the children be the driving force behind whatever they choose to play.

Encouraging imaginative play can be fun for everyone. I enjoy participating in pretend play with my children, taking direction from them. We play dress up, pretend to be super heroes, and enjoy arts and crafts time frequently. But the fan favorite in our home is anything that involves animals. So it should come as little surprise that my children have come to really enjoy the Balance Boat by Begin Again Toys {Thank you Begin Again for providing a sample of the Balance Boat for the purposes of review}. It provides us with hours of imaginative play.

What we love about the
Begin Again Toys Balance Boat:

The Balance Boat is made from eco-friendly rubber wood with non-toxic child-safe stains. This means that this is a safe toy for my tots to play with and it is made thoughtfully with how its development will impact the environment. It also means that there are no batteries required for play, which is a big bonus for me.  

The animals in the Balance Boat are all endangered animals. There is a black rhino, blue whale, African elephant, Jamaican iguana, chimpanzee, giant panda, ivory billed woodpecker, bamboo lemur, orangutan, Bengal tiger, mountain gorilla, sea turtle, pygmy hippo, California condor, and an African lion. This creates a great opening to discussing and learning about animals.

This toy can be used to work on dexterity, problem solving, and patience by using the 15 pieces to try to stack the endangered animals as high as possible while balancing them on the wooden boat or a solid surface {depending on skill level of child}.

This toy can also be used to encourage imaginative play by asking children to create stories or games of their own using the pieces. My son likes to stick the animals in his pockets and hide them around the house so that he and his brother can go on a safari.

The Balance Boat comes with a wood tray for storage and display making it really easy to keep together and clean when not in use.

And last but not least, a portion of the proceeds from sales of the Balance Boat are donated to a variety of animal charities chosen by you. You can visit on twitter at @BeginAgainToys or on Facebook at Begin Again to vote monthly for your favorite charity.

Begin Again Toys Balance Boat with endangered animals

Begin Again Toys Balance Boat with endangered animals review

Begin Again Toys Balance Boat with endangered animals encouraging imaginative play

I have enjoyed using our Balance Boat to foster imaginative play in our home. We use it to create fun safari adventures as well as a fun game for the entire family. Although when my children are in charge the “rules” of the game frequently change. Regardless, it is always entertaining. The recommended age for the Balance Boat is 3 years-old and up.  You can purchase the Begin Again Toys Balance Boat for $35 {current price at time of review}.

I like that the Begin Again line of toys are responsibly crafted and eco-friendly. I love that these are battery free toys that require the kids to be the driving force behind how the toys are played with. The Balance Boat in particular is great for imaginative play.

How do you encourage imaginative play?
Is there a toy that brings out your child’s wish for pretend play activities?

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