Sometimes I wonder if parents realize the bounty of fun, learning, and creativity that awaits their children by using simple things for imaginative play. What parent hasn’t seen their child have more fun with a big gift box than the toy that came in it? And there isn’t a plastic Fisher-Price toy in existence that can do what a simple scarf can do.
With apologies to my brother for what I’m about to reveal, when I was six years old and he was three, I used to dress him in my sister’s shimmery, silky, light-sky-blue pajamas that matched mine. Then, to each cap-sleeve, I tied the end of one of mom’s scarves to simulate wings. He and I would fly all over the house and backyard doing our fairy thing. We played for hours that way.
I also recall that my girlfriends and I used our mother’s scarves to create playscapes for our Barbie dolls. (Yes, they had Barbies when I was young, but not her “Totally Real, 3-Story Dream House.”) We used small boxes covered in scarves to create fab furnishings for our dolls.
I still use solid-colored scarves for our family nature table – a tradition I didn’t abandon once my sons were grown. I change the color to suit the season. For example, during winter I place a white scarf on the table to create a snowy backdrop for winter treasures such as pinecones, evergreen, pyracantha berries, oranges and persimmons. We add little wooden gnomes hiding among a few rocks (that the kids found on nature walks) to complete the scene. Our wall calendar hangs directly above the nature table and helped my children relate the months of the year to the various seasons when they were young.
My friend, MaryAnna, is a homeschool mom of three children. She teaches music classes and suggested letting children hold one end of a scarf, allowing the rest to trail behind them, as they move to music such as Rossini’s William Tell Overture. She also helped compile these versatile ideas for using scarves:
- Play Peek-A-Boo! (of course!)
- Scarf Parachute – Make a scarf toy parachute following these directions.
- Scarf Knapsack – Make a knapsack to carry your stuff by tying all four corners of the scarf together.
- Scarf Blindfold – Use a scarf as a blindfold and play “Blind Man’s Bluff.”
- Scarf Blankie – Use the scarf as a comforting “blankie” at home or on the road.
- Knot Scarves – Practice tying simple knots in a scarves.
- Static Scarves – Use a scarf to experiment with static electricity following these directions.
- Scarf Games – Use a scarf in place of a ball or beanbag for indoor games. It slows down the action and makes many games easy, safe, and fun for little ones. You can also use it to gently “tag” people in various games like “Tag- You’re It” and “Tag Football.”
- Make a Scarf Puppet – Simply drape a scarf over one hand to create an imaginary puppet. Or make a Scarf Marionette!
- Scarf Dress-Up – Use scarves on the head (as a bandana, headband, turban, or ponytail holder), as a belt or sash around the waist, as a shawl, or over one eye (as a pirate). Use a scarf as a mask (like a bandit), or tuck one end in the back of pants to make a “tail.” Pretend scarves are jewelry – and make a bracelet or necklace. Use scarves as a bandage or sling. Scarves make great capes allowing imagination to take flight!
- Scarf Magic – Watch this video and learn how to do a magic trick with a scarf. (It’s geared for older kids, but parents or older siblings could learn the trick and entertain the little ones.)
- Scarf Flag – Use a scarf as a flag or to wave goodbye to someone.
- Scarf Rope – Tie a bunch of scarves together to make a scarf rope.
- Scarf Leash – Tie a stuffed animal to a scarf and drag it along the floor.
- Scarf Pendulum – Tie different size toys to the end of a scarf , then slowly and gently swing it back and forth. Observe how the motion changes with each toy.
- Scarf Pulley – Place the scarf over a doorknob, tie objects to each end, and use it to demonstrate a pulley.
- Scarf Forts – Use scarves to create walls for forts made with furniture or blocks.
- Juggling with Scarves – Preschool-age children can develop pre-juggling skills that help to improve concentration, eye-hand coordination, tracking (a pre-reading skill), fine motor skills, and they get a cardio-vascular work-out too. Start by learning to toss and catch one scarf. Then, as coordination develops (which may take a long time) progress to 2 and 3 scarves. Click here to watch a pictorial demonstration. You’ll also want to check out this list of fun things to do as you juggle one or two scarves.
- Scarf Paint Brush – Use a scarf dipped in washable paint to make artistic patterns on paper.
- Scarf Vision – Hold a scarf up to the light and see how things look through it.
- Make a Scarf Kite – Use these directions to make one just like Ben Franklin used!
- Scarf Toy Trampoline – Have 2 or more people hold the corners of a scarf and bounce a toy up and down in the middle of it, like a trampoline.
Here’s an idea: one person runs around with a scarf tied to their ankle, and the other person tries to step on the end of it. Play Tug-of-War with a scarf.
Note: To be safe, never tie a scarf around a young child’s neck. Use safety pins to fasten scarves to clothing.