Remember your awesome childhood imagination? Here’s how to unleash it

My childhood was a time when I existed almost exclusively within my own imagination. My days were filled with dress up, imaginary friends, and mystical creatures that flew in and out of my life. I would play outside for hours, making dyes out of flower petals and meals out of leaves and dirt (yum!).

Do you miss those days? I do. It’s hard being a grownup (or teen) saddled with responsibilities. And sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of things that really crack your brain open and get your creative juices flowing. But never fear—there are some (really fun) ways to unlock your inner-kid and get your mind churning with imagination all over again:

1. Try a writing prompt

Sometimes it’s hard to just sit down and start writing creatively if you haven’t done it a while, but there are some tricks to get you back into the free-flowing thought process. Here are some “writing prompts”—or imaginary circumstances you can write about—to ignite your creativity. The following are three possible opening sentences for a story. Pick one, set a timer for 10 minutes, and just continue the story from one of these opening lines. Don’t try to make your sentences perfect, just write and see what falls out of your brain.

Prompt 1: “She’s so young, too. Makes it all the more sad, doesn’t it?”

Prompt 2: “Be quiet or he’ll hear you!”

Prompt 3: A woman walks into a thrift store intending to buy a dress, but ends up with a much more interesting purchase.

2. Create a collage

All you need is glue, some old magazines, and scissors. Try creating a vision board for your goals (in the upcoming month, season, year, etc.) There are no rules, so have fun with it!

3. Design in nature

Go outside (without your electronics) and use your imagination to entertain yourself. Try making sandcastles, designs with leaves, flower chains, or pressing flowers. You can also watch clouds or stargaze.

4. People watch (and imagine)

Look for someone (anyone) that you don’t know, and invent their life story. Is it that couple’s first date? Is she an artist? Is his bow tie really a camera? (Ok, maybe I got that from Simon and Garfunkel.) It’s especially entertaining if you have a partner in crime.

5. Dance yourself silly

Challenge: Rid yourself of humility and dance your heart out. You don’t have to be Taylor Swift to “shake it off.”

6. Dress up in a character

We’re not talking Halloween costumes here. Go into your closet (or your fave thrift store) and find a few items that subtly make you feel like you’re from another era playing dress-up. Maybe it’s a free-flowing skirt and scarf that, together, make you kind of feel like Stevie Nicks, or even just a pair of colorful Keds that remind you, when you look down at them, of the retro scenes in Now and Then.  Sometimes wearing something can transport your brain to imagined, awesome times and karate-chop a here-and-now rut.

7. Start crafting

This is the perfect way to usher fall into winter, and to get you focused on some creative activities. You don’t have to be particularly artsy to embrace DIY crafting. There are plenty of fun accessories and home goods to make that don’t require an MFA. Don’t know where to start? Try making a bottle cap magnet or a DIY rock ring.

8. Get sketchy (not that kind of sketchy)

It doesn’t have to be perfect; just try to draw what you see. Try setting up your own scene using everyday items, or (if you’re more into people) seek inspiration from magazines.

9. Doodle your heart out

Aside from the fact that doodling helps you focus (yes, it’s true!), it’s a fun way to be creative.The next time you’re bored, don’t pull out your phone– doodle something! You can draw anything that comes to mind. Think: swirls, animals, and hearts (oh my!). For a really cool primer on sketching and techniques check this site out.

10.Get creative in the kitchen

Try a new recipe, BUT don’t totally stick with it. Add a hint or a pinch of at least one thing in your cupboard that you think would work flavor-wise and just go for it. Or experiment with creative food art (pancakes are a fun place to start.) It’s a good exercise in loosening up your imagination and allowing yourself to follow—but not stick to—every rule. Another option, is to choose a recipe that forces you to come up with part of the ingredients on your own. This easy flatbread is one of my favorite things, and the best part is that you get to fill it with whatever you like! OK, the best part is eating it. But the process of making something on your own terms, with your own creative input, is really satisfying for the ol’ soul, too.

Images from Shutter Stock and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here