Having a developed imagination is one of the best skills a child can cultivate. Everyone is born with the ability to imagine – just watching a 3-year-old for any length of time will prove that – but it takes time and effort to cultivate and strengthen an imagination. Children naturally play pretend because it is a way for them to understand the world around them. Unfortunately, as children get older, social norms and the ubiquity of screens tend to make unfettered imagination less common than it once was.
Is imagination really that important?
We have so many tools and so much tech at our disposal these days that you may wonder if it’s really that important for kids to take time just to imagine? The answer is a resounding yes! Getting lots of good imagining in when children are young has far-reaching effects when they get older. Enhanced cognitive skills, language skills, cooperation and social skills, critical thinking skills, and creative thinking skills are just a few of the traits that successful people use as adults that imaginative play helps develop.
Besides, all of those tools we have nowadays – the computers, gadgets, and screens – they started in someone’s imagination. The English poet William Blake once said, “What is now proved was once only imagined.” Who knows what your child could create later in life from what they imagined as a child?
Are there ways to improve imagination skills?
An imagination isn’t a fixed trait that you either have or you don’t – it can be strengthened and developed through specific kinds of play. And it’s never too late to start honing your child’s imagination skills, either. By making minor tweaks to the way your children play, you can help them develop their imaginations in ways that can only benefit them. Here are five ways to help you get started:
1. Read Together Often: Reading is one of the best ways to encourage the imagination. Books – whether or not they have pictures – provide fodder for children to create new worlds. The scenarios and settings within books set the stage for children to explore and recreate different experiences that they might never have in real life.
When you’re reading together, be sure to ask your child questions about the story to strengthen their literacy skills at the same time. If you want to take things a step further, try retelling a favorite story without using the book, and ask your child for input on the characters and plots. Letting them change and adapt the story as you tell it stretches and strengthens their imagination.
2. Provide Quality Tools: You’ve likely heard the quote, “A man is only as good as his tools,” and that certainly holds true for children and their toys. A child’s job is to learn, play, and grow, and the toys you provide help them do that job.
As you gather toys for your children, look for things that are durable and up for a little wear and tear. Raduga Grez makes wood toys that are fantastic in any imaginary kitchen, as one example. Other quality tools include things that provide opportunities for open-ended play. Dolls, art supplies, dress-up clothes, wooden or stuffed animal toys, musical instruments, and vehicles all can provide hours of imaginative engagement for your children.
3. Use Building Blocks: Blocks are a fantastic resource for every toy chest. Not only do they provide gross and fine motor skills as children are stacking, positioning, and balancing, but they also encourage valuable imagination practice. Your child can transform a pile of blocks into a castle that houses a person in distress or a veterinary center where sick stuffed animals go to get better. As if improving motor skills and imagination weren’t enough, our extensive block inventory can help teach fractions, Spanish culture, Greek mythology, and more.
4. Go Outside: Children these days have less unstructured outdoor play than ever before – on average under 10 minutes per day – but outdoor play is one of the best ways to improve imaginative play. The outdoors provides limitless opportunities for growth and development without requiring many additional supplies. Leaves, dirt, bugs, puddles, clouds, bushes – all of these things can serve as the backdrop for your children’s stories and discoveries.
5. Engage with Your Children: Children sometimes have the best imaginative play sessions when they are left to their own devices, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help them along. When they are playing, ask if you can join in and let them tell you the role you need to play. If they stop the playtime to correct your behavior, go along with it and let them take the reins. As you play, be sure to ask a lot of questions to help them really flesh out the scene and characters.
Developing an imagination yields all kinds of benefits for children. It helps them learn to think outside of the box, find creative solutions, and cooperate while remaining flexible. By providing ample supplies and opportunities, you can help your child develop these valuable skills while having the time of their lives.