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The days are longer, warmer and much more fun, which usually means that summer vacation has officially begun.

And even though students and teachers alike enjoy the break, many parents and educators have legitimate concerns that children lose too much time and might actually go backward in their educational progress during the summer months.

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However, it is important to remember that learning experiences don't just come from the classroom. Children also need time to play and freely explore the world around them. Children who are encouraged to use their imaginations are often more engaged in learning, are better problem solvers, and typically have better reading and writing skills. Fortunately for parents, there are many ways to inspire children to use their imaginations.

Create a summer full of fun using one or all of the suggestions below.

• Unplug. The best way to inspire creativity in your child? Have them "unplug" from technology and put away the tablets, smartphones and computers. Every now and then it is OK to give your child the opportunity to be bored.

Boredom often inspires creativity out of necessity. And most of the time your child will learn to entertain him or herself without video games and instant messaging. In fact, your kids might even be grateful that you encouraged them to do something different.

• Make art. It's a fact: Artists are creative people. They see the beauty in everything around them. Creating art is a wonderful way to express yourself. Assemble an inexpensive "bucket" of art supplies for your little artist to enjoy. First, take inventory of the supplies you already own and purchase any additional supplies as necessary.

Remember: Almost anything can be art, so don't be afraid to throw in things other than crayons and paper. Items like plastic containers, ribbons and natural items like leaves are great for art projects as long as they are age appropriate. If you are able to splurge, learn a new technique by treating your child to a special art project at a craft studio.

• Write stories. Writers are known as some of the most creative people in the world. Through the use of words, writers are able to create vivid images and introduce us to new thoughts and new perspectives. Encourage your child to put his or her verbal skills to use and create a fictional story or a nonfiction one such as an autobiography. Create a booklet using folded paper stapled at the edge. Have your child write out his or her story and create illustrations using colored pencils or markers.

Not only does writing encourage creative thinking, but it also reinforces writing skills that might be lost in younger children over the summer break. For inspiration, visit your local library or bookstore.

• Put on a show. One of my favorite things to do as a child was to put on "shows" with my family and friends. However, back in those days we were using cassette tapes and not ultra-high definition video recorders.

While times have changed, one thing is certain — using your imagination and intelligence to write a script, prepare a set and costumes, and act out a play or Web show is the very definition of creativity. Your show can be funny and include skits like those on "Saturday Night Live." Or, if your child is interested in science fiction, he or she could create a show about a trip to outer space. If your child has a serious interest in seeing a live show or even performing in one, check out the Reisterstown Theatre Project. You can find more information at http://www.reisterstowntheatreproject.org.

• Get back to nature. Getting outside is a great way to spark your child's imagination. The simple act of observing your surroundings in a natural setting can promote creativity.

In addition, children who regularly spend time outside tend be more well-adjusted and have a lower likelihood of developing childhood obesity. Take the family for a hike or bike ride at a local park. Challenge your children to create something that reminds them of their time outdoors, such as a necklace made from vines and flowers or a painting of animals that you saw while traveling.

• Build a fort. It is truly amazing what a child can do with a few blankets, boxes, and some tape or string.

Building and playing in a fort is incredibly fun — some adults even enjoy them. They can be built indoors or outdoors and are a cheap way to entertain kids because they can be made using materials you have around the house.

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Forts are also great because they can be anything to anyone, from a rocket ship to a creative reading nook.

• Something new. Let your child's imagination run wild by learning about a new place or new things.

Regularly exposing children to new experiences can be a great catalyst for creativity. The excitement of new experiences helps to keep children engaged and ignites their creative side.

Creativity teaches children that the possibilities in life are endless.

It is important for children to know that they are only bound by their own imaginations.

To paraphrase a famous quote, if they can dream it, they can do it.

Danielle Moser is a Reisterstown resident and can be reached via email at threepeasservices@gmail.com.

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