Children are naturally wired to be playful and imaginative. Unfortunately, the busyness of daily life can also steal away their opportunities to continue enjoying these gifts. What can parents do to further encourage imagination in their children?
1) Give Them Time
Unstructured time is vitally important if you are going to encourage imagination. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to begin to unwind from the real world and embrace all the possibilities. If children are rushed from one activity to another, they never really have the opportunity to get deeply involved in imaginative play.
And once they get going, they will not want to stop! Be sure to schedule in good chunks of time for imagination. This free playtime is just as important as any structured learning for young children. In many cases, imaginative play is even more important!
2) Provide The Tools
The best imaginative tools and toys are those that allow for open-ended play. These can include a dress up box filled with clothes, hats, shoes, jewelry, and more. Some children will love having craft materials on hand – whether it includes boxes, duct tape, paints, or markers. Any toy that allows your child to dictate how it will be used (instead of the other way around) can be a valuable tool for encouraging imagination.
3) Ask Questions
Do you model an imaginative mind to your children? Asking questions full of wonder is a great way to get their minds thinking about the possibilities in their own imaginations. Taking a nature walk and marveling in the wonders of creation stirs the imagination. Asking questions such as, “I wonder why…?” or “I wonder what would happen if…?” can be great ways to get a child’s imagination going in new directions.
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4) Read Good Books
Good books open up so many possibilities! By reading chapter books aloud to your children, you can help them learn to paint pictures and scenes in their mind while listening. (Some children will need to be told to “make a movie” of it in their minds and won’t automatically do so!) If your children are too young for chapter books, expose them to high-quality picture books with illustrations that fuel creativity and imagination. When your children are old enough to read on their own, be sure they have quality books to further fuel their imagination.
5) Enjoy Audio Dramas
Audio dramas are an excellent tool for stirring the imagination of children. The stories of interesting people and events come alive and the children are able to “see” it in their mind. After listening to stories of bravery and adventure, they will often be motivated to create their own adventures and imagine ways in which they might be the brave hero.
There are so many ways to foster imagination in children. The key is to make it a priority and make it a part of everyday life!