Here’s a true story about cultivating a child’s imagination: Two children I know – aged four and six – have two sets of generous grandparents. One side of the family lavishes them with video games and electronic wonders, while the other grandparents give wooden blocks, books, puzzles, Legos™, more books, and art supplies. On the big day – Christmas and birthdays – the electronic toys always make a big splash. The other 360 days or so the children throw themselves into imaginative, inventive, non-electronic play. It turns out that children have more fun when they use their creativity and their imaginations. Why?
The hands-on play works because we were designed as human beings to be creative and imaginative, just like God. We thrive and flourish when we engage those inclinations. Not only that, but both learning and satisfaction are enhanced when we are encouraged to use our imaginations. It’s not enough to simply tell our kids to be more creative, so here are 6 ways to cultivate your kid’s imagination.
1. The Cardboard Box
Get together with your children for a play-date. Provide a cardboard box and a set of markers. Ask them to take you on an adventure and see what happens.
2. Self-directed Play
Encourage play where children have no access to directions and have to make up their own games. You can prompt with assignments and questions. Give them time and room. Resist the urge to organize them.
3. Cut Back on Over-organized Sports
Kids spend too much time with coaches, teachers, referees, and camp counselors. Get together with other parents and organize loosely directed play at the park, the playground, the beach, the cul-de-sac.
4. Make Problem-solving a Natural Part of Every Day
Organize their lives where solving problems is a routine task. “It’s raining… what should we do for fun?” “We don’t have the right ingredients, let’s make dinner together out of what we have.” “I need a present for the birthday party, help me make something cool…”
5. Hands-on and Switch Off
Both learning and satisfaction are enhanced when we are encouraged to use our imaginations.There is a kinetic connection between hands-on play and positive brain development. Learning should engage as many of the senses as possible for maximum impact. Hands-on learning turns out to be huge when it comes to turning the brain on too.
6. Cultivate Electronic-free Environments
Program balance in their lives. Model this via your own behavior too. Time limits on electronics; mandatory board game nights; research at the library; book club over the summer; trip planning via an atlas. The possibilities are endless.