Imaginative games and activities

Dressing up

Any old clothes can be used for dressing up; it doesn’t matter if they don’t fit! Scraps of material are also useful as they can be whatever a child wants them to be. Accessories are also important - old beads, hats and makeup.

Why not try making masks or headdresses out of paper plates, card or paper and decorate them with feathers, sequins, material, leaves and anything else you can find!

  • Old nighties (they make great princess outfits)
  • Hats of any kind (pretty essential)
  • Jewellery, beads, bracelets, chains, brooches, glasses, masks
  • Anything with feathers, fake fur or tassels on
  • Large pieces of scrap material
  • Old cushions for stuffing inside your costume to change your shape
  • Bedspreads, blankets and sheets
  • Sparkly, shiny clothes, fairy wings and wands
  • Wet-weather gear
  • Umbrellas, walking sticks, plastic swords
  • Headscarves, woolly scarves
  • Ribbons, belts, ties
  • Old shoes and boots, clippy-cloppy shoes (essential)
  • Old make-up.

Cat walk

Play this just before recycling day when there is plenty of newspaper lying around the house - you will need lots of it.

The aim of the game is to design and make a piece of clothing out of nothing but newspaper and Sellotape. You will also need a willing model who must be prepared to stand still for a few minutes and parade up and down a catwalk showing off your creations.

When you are happy with the finished product, put on some loud music and ask your glamorous model to mess up their hair and swagger up and down the room with lips pouting and hands on their hips. A pair of oversized high heels can often help the model perfect their walk. Take plenty of pictures with a flash camera and remember to do lots of air-kissing, telling everyone how fabulous they look, darling.

Hand shadows

Position a lamp or a torch so that it lights up an empty wall. Put your hands in front of it in various positions and experiment with the shadows you can make. Don't just stick to the usual bird flapping its wings or rabbit with two long ears. Move your fingers and arms into different shapes and you will soon find yourself with tarantulas, pigs, snails, witches with hooky noses, and rabbits.

Bash bash bash

Take one wooden spoon, one pan and a child. Turn the pan upside down, give the spoon to your child and encourage them to get bashing. A lovely, noisy pastime that will keep them going for ages.

Big boxBig box

There's not a lot of things that are more exciting to a child than a big box. And we mean a BIG box - tall enough for them to stand up in.

Children will love to decorate the box for hours and hours, drawing chimneys, smoke, climbing roses, Santa Claus, bricks, graffiti and garden fences. Once the outside is finished, there's always the inside to decorate too. Pictures and photos can be stuck on to walls, a rough square shape drawn on for the TV, bedrooms can be coloured in either bright pink or dinosaur green, and a cushion shoved inside to make life in the house more comfortable.

Children will knock on the door, leave visiting toys on the porch, post letters through a letterbox, be the tea delivery man bringing snacks to enjoy in their house and have plenty of passing conversations through windows. Days of enjoyment guaranteed.

Homemade band

The more people there are to play this, then the noisier and merrier it becomes, but you can easily play it by yourself and, what's more, you don't have to be even remotely musical.

Take a little look around the house and you will be amazed at how many musical instruments can be created. Here are a few examples:

  • Put a handful of dried beans into a jar or empty plastic bottle, replace the lid and shake to and fro in a groovy way. Instant homemade maracas!
  • Take a wine glass with a stem. Put a bit of water in it and then run a wet finger around the rim, holding onto the base with your other hand. You may need to experiment with the speed and the pressure that you use in order to elicit a ringing note. You can line up lots of glasses next to each other, each with different amounts of water in them and see if you can play an actual tune.
  • Find an empty bottle and place it just below your lips. Then blow in a gentle, slightly peculiar way, top lip a bit more sticky out then the bottom one. Different shaped bottles will make different notes, and you can also fill bottles with varying amounts of water to alter the note.
  • Saucepans turned upside down make extremely good homemade drums to be banged with wooden spoons...particularly good for very young children. Pan lids make excellent cymbals.
  • Stretch a thick elastic band over a door handle, pulling down with one hand and plucking it with the other. The more you stretch it, the higher the note.
  • Fill a washing-up bowl with water and then take a metal saucepan lid and hold it by the handle so that that it's vertical. To make a wobbly sound now start tapping the lid with a metal or wooden spoon while you dip the lid in and out of the water.
  • Blow down the spout of a clean watering can. Blowing, in this case, means making a farty noise with your mouth. The watering can acts as a great amplifier.
  • Take a rack from the oven, and then drag a metal egg whisk up and down it.
  • Try sweeping a hairbrush over a sieve.
  • If you have a comb lying around you can fold a piece of greaseproof paper over it, and then hum into it. This is a good way of keeping the tune going.
  • Gently slap your cheeks while you make an O-shape with your mouth. As you open your mouth wider the note changes pitch.

When you have set up your band and you are all ready to go, then decide on a song to do. Start out with something simple like 'Happy Birthday'. Swap around so that you each get a go on different instruments. You could put a CD on and play along with it too.

Mud pies

Find a patch of earth that hasn't been planted! Dig up some earth with a spade or trowel and put it in a bucket or bowl. Then add just enough water to form a thick, squelchy, sticky lump. Let it ooze through your fingers (or toes!) and add more water or earth until it is the right consistency to make a little cake. Flatten and mould as you see fit, before laying it on a flat surface such as an old plate.

As it dries in the sun, decorate it with daisies and dandelions or sticks and stones. You can write letters on the top too, or try to carve a drawing. Hands will get filthy during all of this, so wash them really well before tea, using soap AND a scrubbing brush and no complaining.

Noughts and crosses

If you are in the park or on a patch of lawn, find four twigs of a similar length and lay them down to form a grid for a game of noughts and crosses. Now find some stones to use as noughts and some leaves to use as crosses.

At the Post Office

You don't have to own a toy post office to enjoy this pretend game. All you really need is lots of scrap paper and a few pens, some coins and an empty box of some kind (a cereal box is ideal). You will also need some stamps. These can be made out of sticky labels with smiley, crowned faces drawn on them, or small squares of coloured paper and a glue stick at the ready.

Take it in turns to be the person behind the counter and the customer. If you are the customer, scribble a quick letter to someone and shove into an envelope. You can either recycle old envelopes and seal them down with tape, or create new ones using scrap paper that has been folded in half and stapled up the sides. Write some lines of address on the envelope and then take to the imaginary post office.

Back to school

Playing schools at home is very popular. The children will decide the rules for themselves, but it’s a good idea to have some paper, pens, pencils, a table and chairs to create that all important learning environment!!!

Chinese whisper

Player 1 thinks up a sentence or phrase about a member of the family. Ten words or so with something silly in it works a treat. They whisper their sentence as quietly as possible, and once only, into the ear of the next player. Player 2 should listen carefully, remember the phrase as best they can and whisper it to the next player. The game continues until the phrase has been repeated to everyone around the table. The last person who hears it announces out loud what they have just heard, which probably be wildly different from the original phrase, which is revealed by player 1.

Tell a story

It doesn't matter what it is about, it can be a fairy tale that everyone recognises, a true story, or just something you make up as you go along. Spooky stories that aren't really scary are always a hit with us. As you tell the story, include lots of noisy things that happen, and everyone else must do the sound effects.

Rainy day den

This is perfect for days when you're stuck indoors. Get some sheets or blankets and drape them between some sturdy chairs to make a secret den. Encourage your little one to get involved and help.

We put our favourite books and little toys in, along with some cushions. Then we play peek-a-boo and hide and seek. At lunchtime we have a rainy day picnic with our teddies in our secret den. If you have a tunnel you can use that as your secret entrance to make it even more fun.


There is no doubt that tents have a magical quality that give most games or toys a new lease of life. Being able to close the curtains, play in secret and get up to all sorts of mischief without being disturbed will always spark the imagination.

First find a spare sheet or blanket or even an enormous dressing gown. Then get a couple of chairs and place them a few feet apart or find a table big enough to sit underneath. Throw the blanket over the top and crawl inside. To ensure complete privacy, make a sign to hang up outside that makes it very clear that this is a secret tent and that everyone else should keep out.

If the tent feels big enough, grab a couple of pillows or cushions to sit or lie on. They will immediately make any den feel very cosy, and if your children are recovering from a bug, or just feeling a bit small, it's the perfect place for a bit of quiet time with some books. Alternatively, if everyone is in a more lively mood, squeeze as many toys or friends that will fit in and hold a noisy tent-warming party serving pretend cups of tea or glasses of wine.

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Last Updated: 18.11.2010 at 12:12

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