I’ve always envied those moms with the great imaginations making up games on the fly or chasing their kids on the playground. They are so involved and genuinely happy to play with their kids. Me, on the other hand, I love being with my kids, but I’m terrible at playing with them.

imaginary play

My daughter hands me a Barbie and says, “Here mama, you be Ariel.” 

She grabs Princess Tiana and begins a conversation while I stare blankly at my red-haired princess. What do I say? What scenario can we act out together that will both entertain my daughter and last long enough to get us through until she chooses a different activity? To be fair, I never liked Barbies when I was a little girl, either.

My husband and son roll around wrestling on the floor or building a city made of blocks. He sets up a magical wonderland outside our farm that includes talking animals, dancing trees, and hot lava that my kids love to explore and tell me all about when they come inside out of breath. But I just don’t have that same creative and playful spirit.

Since quality time with my kids is something I love despite my nonexistent entertaining skills, I’ve had to get creative choosing ways to spend time together. Here is what I do:

1. Direct Activities

I may not be the best at playing “house” and can only roll Play-Doh into the shape of a ball or snake, but I CAN set up the Barbie dreamhouse and Play-Doh cookie cutter tools and sit beside them while they play! I don’t have to have the best imagination to still participate; I can direct playtime by providing the activities.


2. Participate In Dance Parties

Sure my dance skills aren’t much better than my imaginary play skills, but it’s fun! We have dance parties every day before bed, and it’s not a tradition we plan to end anytime soon. There’s nothing better than twirling your daughter around and having your toddler son say, “Will you dance with me, mommy?”

3. Involve Them In Your Work

My kids love helping me cook, fold laundry, or even setting up a “play” workspace with paper, pens, and a kid-version laptop. Involving them in what I do on a day-to-day basis makes them feel grown-up and included. If you have a hobby, invite your kids to join in next time!

4. Read To Them

Books tell their own stories! I don’t have to make one up or really put any thought into it at all. I make up character voices and expressions, and my kids request one book after another!

5. Family Game Night

Like books, games have their own rules and outline. Oh, and they always incorporate lots of laughter!

6. Take A Walk

Walks are a great time of bonding and exploration. It’s a time to unplug and give your kids the attention they crave without having the pressure of creating a magical childhood.

7. Relax Together

Whether it’s letting your kids jump in bed with you during the wee morning hours that always come too soon, or maybe it’s trying to fit yourself onto their beds with them while you sing them to sleep, spend time cuddling and relaxing with one another. You will find that is when some of the best conversations occur.

So, are you like me and struggle with imaginary play? I hope you will try some of the tips above and let me know in the comments how it positively impacts your time with your kids!


imaginary play


Amanda Foust
Amanda is a wife, mother, writer/editor, and certified life coach. Pen and paper make her spirit come alive. She spends her creative time reading, decorating, and handwriting fonts. Her world is better with an assortment of chocolate and a stack of books packed and ready for travel. She works each day to be a creative maker and a light bringer. You can find more of her writing at Downs, Ups & Teacups and TheDailyPositive.com.