The Webster’s dictionary defines imagination as “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.”
Once upon a time long ago before tablets, phones, and video games took over our children’s “free time”, they played outdoors, made up games, built forts, rode bikes and got muddy. I am a big fan of technology but when it takes over your child’s play, I feel it has gone to far.
As a parent, I know it’s easy to throw the iPad in front of them if you have tasks that need to be completed. Incorporating them into your tasks or allowing them to do a similar task is much more beneficial to the child. For example, when I’m cooking, I set out some pots and cups - some with water, some with rice. My little one likes to pretend he is cooking as well. As I’m cooking I can hear him say, “put some over here and some in here”. He’s creating a gourmet meal by using his imagination.
Giving your child some time to use their imagination each day will help their creative side flourish. Parent-led play is wonderful at times but your child can explore and share their ideas during this time. I’m going to give you a few scenarios on how to facilitate imagination play.
A Box - Who knew an empty box could be a race car, a computer, and a spaceship all at once? I have had great success at getting boxes at my local grocery store. My husband and I laugh because our son would rather play with the box than the actual toy that was stored inside it. He enjoys putting his cars inside calling it “car house”. You can help them draw parking spaces, a road etc. It is important to let the child direct this playtime.
Play Dough - If you don’t have any at home ready and available, Pinterest has some wonderful recipes for making it. Play Dough could entertain my son for hours. He loves building, sculpting and “cooking” with it. Giving your child “space” allows them to be really creative. (Although when left alone it can become a messy creation.) Occasionally I set out some play dough at the table for him to play with while I’m folding laundry in the same area (or within eyes distance). He creates towers, cookies, snowmen, trees, boats, stars etc and enjoys showing them to me once he’s finished. With play dough you can knock out many educational tasks at once - Colors, counting, shapes, textures (by adding items into the play dough) and much, much more.
Outdoors - Nature is full of fun - trees, rocks, dirt, birds, grass, clouds and flowers. (Not to mention the wonderful benefits of soaking up Vitamin D.) Take your child on a “Nature Walk”. They will share so many amazing little “stories” about the world before them. My son enjoys looking up at the clouds telling me creatures they favor. It started with me saying, “Look it’s a bear”. As parents we have to help sculpture our children’s imaginations. Let them play in the dirt, moving it from one pile to another, pretending to be a dump truck. Rock collections can be fun too. They can pretend they are “hunting” for rocks. After collecting, take inside for a good scrub and let them paint the rocks to show off their artsy side.
Story Time - We love to read at our home – so. many. books. Go beyond the already created stories and allow your child to be the author of his own book. My son enjoys drawing and coloring so I let him “color a story”. Take a couple sheets of paper folding them in half to create a book. You will be shocked when you discover how creative your child can be (mine is only two and creates some interesting stories). You can also allow them to “tell” you a story. For example, I will say to my son “tell me a story about the big green tree”. He has to use his imagination to make up a story on the topic I gave him.
Turn off that device and allow your children to dust off their imagination. (You will have fun too.) As parents, you will enjoy watching them think on their own and enhance their creativeness.
Facilitating Imagination Play
Jessica Fox, Contributor
Carolina Pediatric Therapy © September 2014
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