We’ve all heard the phrase, “Don’t let your imagination run away with you.” However, it’s possible that this is exactly what our kids should be doing. While an overactive imagination can be harmful, many of our children are suffering from the exact opposite problem – an under active imagination. In his 2012 article, The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development, Scott Barry Kaufman writes, “Over the last seventy-five years a number of theorists and researchers have identified the values of such imaginative play as a vital component to the normal development of a child.” Because of the great importance of imaginative play in a child’s life, it is imperative that parents provide an ideal environment for imagination to flourish. The following 5 suggestions can help to foster your child’s imagination.
1. Limit Screen Time - While modern technology certainly has benefited our society, too much of a good thing is still bad. If your child is spending an inordinate amount of time watching television, playing video games or browsing the internet, his chance for free play is significantly diminished. Make sure your little one has plenty of opportunity to exercise his imagination by limiting daily screen time.
2. Schedule in Free Time - OK, I know having to schedule free time sounds a little ridiculous. However, children today are very busy. Think about the practices, extracurricular activities, and appointments your child has in a typical week. If your kiddo has a packed calendar, there’s a good chance she does not have the down time necessary to just be a kid. Children need to have time in their week to simply lay down in the grass and see pictures in the clouds. Don’t make the mistake of over scheduling your little one.
3. Choose Toys Wisely - Not all toys are created equal – especially when it comes to fostering imagination. When choosing toys for your child, ask yourself if it will promote imaginary play. For instance, a bag of Lego blocks can become a house one day and a car the next day. The possibilities are endless. However, the latest toy gimmick may only have one or two potential play ideas.
4. Ask Thought Provoking Questions - Make the most of the conversations you have with your kiddo. It is tempting to tune out our children – especially if you have an especially chatty child! Resist the temptation to turn on the radio during car rides and use the time instead to ask questions. For instance, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” or “If you were a superhero, what would be your super strength?”. Kids enjoy these interactions and you will enjoy learning something new about your little one.
5. Read! - Last, but certainly not least, provide a reading friendly atmosphere for your youngster. Reading is an optimal way to engage a child’s imagination. Envisioning characters, settings, and plot outcomes will spark your child’s imagination like nothing else can. So be sure your home promotes reading by having books available, quiet places to retreat to, and a reading parent as an example!
Are you doing all you can to foster your kiddo’s imagination? Be willing to take an honest look at your child’s environment and schedule and see what areas you can tweak in order to promote an active imagination.