What to expect as your child’s imagination grows

By school-age, your child will probably:

  • have a clearer understanding of what’s real and what’s pretend
  • be able to plan new creative arts including drawing, painting, dance and music
  • be able to tell you a made-up story
  • start to grow out of fears at around six years of age – for example, fear of monsters, the dark and dogs.

Even though school-age children might be doing more structured activities and games, open-ended play is still important at this age. This type of play boosts your child’s creative development and teaches her how to experiment, think, learn and solve problems.

Your child will be more likely to get involved in creative and imaginative activities if you put some limits on screen time – that is, time spent in front of televisions, computers, tablets, mobile phones and other electronic devices. When your child does have screen time, you can help him make good-quality media choices that spark his imagination.

Play ideas and creative activities to encourage imagination in school-age children

Here are some play ideas to get your child going. Encourage your child to take the lead while you take a supportive role with these activities:

  • Tell stories and read books. Encourage your child to come up with new endings to stories or tell you what might happen next.
  • Play word games, including silly rhymes and riddles. This gets your child using her imagination to come up with answers.
  • Make household chores fun by turning them into make-believe activities. Your child could be a waiter who helps to set the table. Or he could pretend that he’s a chef and help you with some basic cooking.
  • Visit the zoo or museum, or walk along the beach – anywhere there are new things to see, hear, feel and think about.
  • Fill a craft box with paints, pencils, paste, scrap paper and other materials. Your child can use these to create pictures, collages, paintings, puppets and more.
  • Give your child props for pretend play. These can be old clothes, handbags and hats for dress-ups or even homemade puppets.
  • Let your child try out different musical instruments, or listen to different types and styles of music together with your child.
  • Help your child build cubbyhouses with cardboard boxes or drape a blanket over some chairs.
All children develop at their own pace – they don’t all do the same things at the same time and in the same way. But if you’re concerned about any aspect of your child’s learning, wellbeing or development, it’s a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher or your GP.