One of my favorite things to do when I was a child was to play make-believe. Dress-ups were fun and costumes or accessories could be made from just about everything. Swing sets could become castles, and things around the backyard could be a treasure trove of interesting things for the imagination.
All children have an imagination. But as adults, we sometimes unknowingly stifle their imaginations because we think they might not understand what is real, or think they’re just being silly.
And these days with more television, phones and tablets, kids using their imagination is on the decline.
Toddlerhood is a great time to focus on creativity because it’s the most imaginative time in a child’s life. Thinking outside the box is easy for them because they don’t know of any restrictions. Nothing seems impossible.
It’s around this age they begin to learn self-control and restraint. It’s important things for them to learn, but it is easy to stifle their creativity. We need to find that balance to nurture their creativity while teaching them the necessary skills and keeping them safe.
Kids love to explore new ways of using things. If it’s safe and poses no harm, (mess is at your discretion) let them.
So why is imagination important for kids?
Imagination is the door to possibilities. It encourages children to think outside the box and be more creative. They learn to solve problems and think without limits. It can help them channel and express their emotions and feelings.
Imaginative and creative play is how children learn about the world. Playing imaginary games with other children is great for them socially and can improve their communication skills.
Imagination encourages thinking skills. During pretend play, children make things up as they go along. They use their memory and have to come up with new things to keep the story going along. Pretend play is a safe place they can escape to, where they can be in control and just about anything can happen.
When creating an imaginary world or scene, children need to explain the story and rules and come up with different things that happen. When playing with others they need to negotiate and solve problems if everyone has different ideas or wants to play the same character. And coming up with different characters and scenarios every time they play can make for some interesting and debatable conversations.
While most children start out by using their imagination and pretend play by themselves, eventually it will turn into group play. They learn to take turns, be fair and negotiate with others.
So how can you encourage your child to use their imagination?
Do it with them
It can be hard at the beginning for kids to see how things could possibly be something else. Ask them what they think it could be, and offer some suggestions if they are struggling.
Encourage pretend play
Find some costume pieces or things around the house and see what they can come up with.
Find some props
There are heaps of different toys you can buy for pretend play, but you can often make something or use what you already have. The lounge could be a boat or a car, a table could become a cave.
Get them to look at the clouds
Get a blanket and lie down on the grass. Get them to look at the clouds and tell you what they see. What shapes do they see? Could they look like anything else? When the clouds move, do they look like something different again?
Spend time outside
Imaginations can run riot outside. So many adventures can be had, or new worlds can be uncovered. Parks or backyards are amazing. Being out in nature inspires kids to think and question and develops their creativity. There could be quests to be had or treasures to discover. Create pictures in the sand or make something with twigs.
Limit screen time
Screen time can be hard to compete with. It’s fun, it’s exciting and they don’t have to do too much to be entertained. But they need to see the fun in the world out there. A lot can be going on in watching television or playing a game, but they aren’t learning how to think for themselves, to find ways to keep themselves occupied without it. They are taking in other people’s images and ideas instead of coming up with their own.
What kid doesn’t love playing with cardboard boxes? Sometimes they are played with more than the toy or whatever it is that comes in it. Boxes could become tunnels, or spaceships, cars, planes, trains, castles or shops. The possibilities are endless.
Give them a picture, could be a photo, out of a book or a magazine etch and get them to come up with a story about it.
Play, ‘what else could it be?’
Find some objects, kitchen utensils, things from a junk drawer or whatever you can find and think of something else they could be or something else they can be used for.
If you have some photos that you don’t want or cut some pictures out of magazines, let your child cut them into pieces. Give them some paper, textas or crayons and some glue and get them to mix up some body parts and create some totally different people on some different backgrounds.
Kids with healthy imaginations often view the world around them with curiosity and grow up to be creative problem solvers.
A lot of the things we use today are the result of someone’s imagination. The world would be a totally different place if imagination didn’t exist.
Imagination is more important than a lot of people think.
As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
How do you encourage your child’s imagination?
This post was written by Candice from Written in Waikiki, a lifestyle and parenting blog about family, life, the ups and downs of being a parent and how to survive it all in one piece. Candice lives in Waikiki, Western Australia with her husband and two kids. She has always loved to write and enjoys sharing her experiences on her blog. You can check out more at www.writteninwaikiki.com