Two Kids, Two Ways of Being Imaginative

Both of my girls are creative and full of imagination, each in her own way.

Parker Barry

When my 9-year-old daughter, Caroline, was 3, someone gave her a doll for her birthday. Luckily, we opened gifts after the party guests had left because she held it up and asked, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

My 6-year-old daughter, Mary Elizabeth, on the other hand, has always been able to turn anything at all into a “person,” making it talk and have conversations with other dolls or toys. I catch her in the back seat sometimes using her fingers as little dolls, making them talk to each other. If she had her way, all day, every day would be endless pretend play — pretending she’s the vet as she plays with the cats or acting like she’s the babysitter when she’s playing with smaller kids. My favorite, though, is when she asks me to play with her: “Let’s pretend you’re my mom…” OK, I guess I can play along with that.

Imagination is more than just pretend play, and despite the differences in how they play, both my girls are very imaginative. Caroline’s imaginative work is more hands-on creative. She’s a problem solver who likes to make things. She loves crafting, likes to keep her hands busy making things from tape and paper, knitting or sewing. A few years ago, when she was a preschooler and her little sister was toddling after her, messing up her creations, I turned a closet into a crafting nook for her. I cleared out the closet and put in a small Ikea table with a chair and bins of craft materials. There, she could close the door and create without her little sister eating her masterpieces.

Imagination is more than just pretend play.

Their imaginative play does overlap, though, when it comes to shows. Both of my girls are performers and love to make up dances or plays. Our dress-up trunk full of costumes — fancy dresses, old dance recital costumes, capes and cloaks, and scarves and hats — is put to good use often for their shows. As a busy mom, I’m thankful for technology because I’m not always able to drop everything to be their one-woman audience. They just take the iPad and set it up to record their performances, and their dad and I can watch later. Lately, along with the neighborhood kids, they’ve been on a spy kick, carrying around walkie-talkies and creating passcodes to enter certain areas.

They play together quite a bit, but imaginative play seems to be most enjoyable for them both. Board games usually end in fights. They can’t agree on a video game to play together. But when they are creating together — a story or a scenario or a craft — they somehow manage to (usually) get along.


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