I’m sometimes amused by the lengths some parents will go to to buy toys, or spend heaps of money on decorations or costumes, with the idea of stimulating their kids’ imaginations. It’s not, of course, that that’s a bad thing, but rather that there are so many simple, cheap ways to do it that I wonder that these people don’t know that.
There’s a fun little ritual my family has that I thought fellow geek parents might be interested in trying with their own kids. My son calls it "soft kisses with toys," and my daughter calls it "wish kisses," and I think for the sake of brevity I’ll stick with her term for it. It’s a tradition born out of various little games we used to play with the kids upon their final good night kiss, wherein we would occasionally pretend the kiss had hit us like a brick and reel from it, or pretend it was about to miss us and we had to catch it–things of that nature.
The idea is that you throw your child a kiss with a "toy" attached to it, so that first you throw the kiss and then you tell them what the "toy" was that they got. The pretend toy should generally be something that would be impossible or at least incredibly difficult to obtain in real life, should be something that you think your child would gladly give his or her right arm for, and should be described with plenty of detail. Then it’s your child’s turn to do the same back to you. Of course, if there are two of you saying good night to your child, you both do it.
Just the other day, I gave my son, who has recently gone crazy for all things Star Wars, his own functional lightsaber, which has been modified so that the blade is only there when it collides with another lightsaber blade, so that he can’t accidentally hurt anyone or anything. In return, he gave me my own R2D2 to follow me around and do things for me. My daughter got a magic mirror that would transport her into the world of High School Musical and put her into any of the characters she wanted (yes, even the male ones, if she wanted), and, of course, bring her back. In return, I got, if I recall correctly, a set of eyeglasses that will change to look like whatever I want them to whenever I want them to change.
Of course, this is probably only good for kids from about age four to about age ten or eleven. It will depend on the kid, of course, and I’m less sure about the upper limit because my older kid is seven-and-a-half. We find it works best if we restrict it to only Friday and Saturday nights, both because it gets really hard really fast to come up with new "toys" every night, and because sometimes they (and we) need to think for a few minutes each time, so non-school nights are best because we won’t be as concerned about the specific time they get to bed.
If you have any favorite bedtime (or other time) rituals that help stimulate your kids’ imaginations, please mention them in the comments.