Teaching your preemie how to use his/her imagination can be one of the most frustrating and fun things to do. Imagination doesn't come easily at first. My daughter in particular is a very linear thinker - if something does a specific thing than she will do it. Getting her to interact with a toy without any rules or prompts is much more difficult. So we start slow and continue to work on it. Here is a look at one of her new favorite games along with specific examples how we use it to encourage imaginative play as well as speech and fine motor skills.
Here is a picture of our pretend zoo:
As you can see, we subscribe to an open floor plan. Our animals are free to roam about when they need exercise. We also like to give them plenty of changes to their living areas so we occasionally build tall towers are extra tall wall pieces when necessary.
1) Fine Motor - Using large building blocks is a great way to built a preemie's fine motor and planning skills. Encourage your preemie to put the pieces together however he/she wants. There is no perfect building or zoo cage for that matter.
2) Imagination - Talk about what you think the animals want to do. In the beginning you can help guide the activity. Are the animals thirsty? I give my daughter a mega blocks piece and encourage her to give the animals some water. Do they want to play? Maybe they want to jump. Then my daughter will help each animal jump. Sometimes they jump on the ground and other times they like to jump on the blocks.
3) Speech/Communication - Talk about each of the animals in the zoo. Name them and talk about what sound they make. Work on action words like sleeping, eating, or drinking by having your preemie help the animals do each thing. As he/she makes the animal jump say "look the animal is jumping. He is jumping very high." This will help your preemie make the connection between the word and the action.