10 Fun Imagination Games for Toddlers -- No Toys Required!

Parents know the drill: we excitedly purchase tons of toys for our little ones, delight in their smiles as they open the first two or three, and then immediately suffer from buyers' remorse as we watch them have more fun with the wrapping paper and boxes than with the actual toys. Young children are absolute masters at pretend play and often require no supplies -- or very few -- most of which are already around the house. So instead of filling your home with more plastic hoozeewats, consider giving your kids the gift that keeps giving by suggesting one of these 10 great imagination games that toddlers can play.

little girl playing hide and seek

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  • Fashion Show

    1

    If you have a closet filled with clothing or -- even better -- boxes of old clothing and costumes, you are totally prepared to let your tot run wild and play the ultimate dress-up game with scarves, hats, dresses, and high heels. Designate a "runway" -- the hallway works nicely -- and let them flaunt their fashion while you play music. If you want to kick up this game a notch, grab markers, glitter glue, and stickers and let them redesign your old skinny jeans.

  • Doctor

    2

    Before you say, Wait, kids totally need a doctor's kit and a million other things to play doctor, it's not true! All they need is your robe or old shirt and a string you can attach a circle to -- instant doctor's coat and stethoscope! Line up their stuffed animals and dolls on their bed and they have a slew of sick patients in need of their help.

  • Shopkeeper

    3

    Every single thing you see in your house is something your child can sell at his or her "store." Cut up a few pieces of colored paper for "money" and use play as an opportunity to teach your toddler about money and how buying and selling goods works.

  • Hide and Seek

    4

    An oldie but a goodie, hide and seek is the ultimate rainy day/no-toys-needed game that your toddler can play with mom, dad, and his or her siblings and friends.

  • Stage Show

    5

    Got a toddler who loves Frozen or books? Show her how to put on a play based on her favorite story. Help her by offering a bag of household "props" like dishrags, plastic spoons, and cups. You'll be amazed at how they get used! And, before you know it, she'll be creating her own original theatre production.

  • Hopscotch

    6

    All you need is chalk and a driveway or sidewalk to create the perfect Hopscotch board -- which doubles as a great opportunity for your child to get a bit of exercise.

  • Scavenger Hunt

    7

    Know how our kids can never find anything and are constantly asking us to help them locate that one teeny red car that suddenly means the world to them? Instead of letting it frustrate you, make a game out of it by providing a list of scavenger items for them to find and offering a simple prize -- a piece of candy will make them work extra hard -- if they can locate everything on the list.

  • Dance Party

    8

    Dim the lights, turn up your iPod, and tell your toddler you're about to throw the greatest dance party in the history of your house. All you have to do is prepare a song list ahead of time, make sure it includes a variety of fast and slow songs -- so that you don't wear out your child in five minutes -- and then sit back and let them practice their slick moves on your living room rug.

  • I Spy

    9

    I Spy is a great game to keep kids occupied when you're out of the house and far away from their familiar toys. Players choose one "spy" who then secretly selects an object he is going to spy on. The spy then provides simple clues about the object ("I spy something that makes a lot of noise") and has to continue to give clues until one of the other players correctly guesses the object.

  • License Plate Bingo

    10

    Of all the games on this list, License Plate Bingo takes the most preparation on a parent's part -- but the trade-off is well worth it when you're embarking on a long car trip with little ones. Prior to your voyage, print out a "Bingo" sheet and paste photos of various license plates from across the country on the sheet. Then explain the rules of Bingo to your children and tell them they will be on the look-out for license plates on the road that match those on their sheet. Be sure to provide a small candy or sticker prize for winners. This game works best when you have older kids in the car to help your younger one.

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