Did you know from earmuffs to calculators, to trampolines and popsicles, many products that we take for granted were invented by kids? Louis Braille was 15 when he came up with the idea of using raised dots to communicate with embossed paper.
Children are natural inventors. And this seeming flair is triggered by one thing – imagination. Invention is usually nothing but the power of imagination made real. From storytelling to free play, to games that are made up on the spot, children find ways to harness their imagination in their day to day life.
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination,” said the genius Albert Einstein. True! Great inventions and discoveries were born out of imagination and not mere knowledge. So, in order to raise intelligent children who can make meaningful contributions to society, you need to spark off their imagination.
As parents, we’re all so busy with the day to day, that we might be missing opportunities to nurture their imagination. Imagining is a lifelong skill that our children need, just as much as being a good problem-solver or knowing how to ride a bike. So, igniting their imagination from a young age is essential. We will share some ways to inject some imagining in children’s every day.
Encourage Pretend Play
When children are role playing and are acting out various experiences they may have had or something that is of some interest to them. They are experimenting with decision making on how to behave and are also practicing their social skills. Children learn from experience: from what happens around them, from what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch.
Invite your child’s friends or cousins to come over for pretend play sessions. Provide them with different scenarios and ask them to take on roles and act out the situations. Stock up on dress up clothes, for example. Young children love to play make believe. It's fun to have a closet or trunk filled with items that can help them jump into a new role. Thrift stores, garage sales and after-Halloween sales are great times to stock up. Throw in jewelry, hats, sunglasses or anything else that can help kids enter that world of make believe whenever they like.
Believe in Boredom
Many parents instinctively feel their kids are missing out on the freedom they experienced in their own childhoods, but still get caught up in the pressure to have their children engaged in endless adult-led, structured activities. Be confident that choosing downtime is the best gift you can give your child.
Remind yourself that free play has been shown to boost confidence, problem-solving skills, resilience, social-emotional connections, and more. So, ask yourself, what can give? Start by swapping out, say, one adult-led activity a week for more downtime and decompression, which may truly help kids realize their passions.
Minimise Screen Time
Much of the precious downtime our children have today is spent on screens, which does little to develop imagination, communication skills, and a sense of wonder. The more time your child spends before screens, the less will be her imagination. She will tend be more robotic and less humane in her thoughts and actions. So, cut down on screen time as a family. You can even have no-screen days.
Although it will be challenging initially, set aside small periods of time that are truly screen-free and hold to them. Start simply. Meals, for one, are an easy way to begin. Designate a container or basket at the corner of the table where everyone places their devices before the meal and witness how fun those meals become without screens getting in the way! Car rides are another time that can be tech-free. Set a rule that phones cannot be used in the car and experience the wonderful connections you can make with your children!
Nothing like storytelling to fire up your child's imagination. Children view their worlds through the lens of story – the who, when, where, what, why, how of daily living.
While you narrate stories, use puppetry or creative props to help your child picturise and imagine the setting and characters. You can even made good use of voice modulation for extra impact. Also, when you narrate stories, encourage your child to participate actively in the process by throwing up questions at you about the plot, the characters, their actions, the ending, and so on. You can also encourage your child to come up with his own stories. They can be either ones he has read or heard, or his very own yarns. You can have family storytelling sessions where one member begins a story and the others keep adding details to it to build the story.
Arts and crafts
Any handwork will give vent to your child’s imagination. Encourage him to make his own toys. Rather than playing with motorised or battery-operated ones, let him create his own toys. Provide him with materials such as old plastic containers, pieces of cloth, ribbons, etc. Also, this can serve as a good recycling exercise. Whether it's writing or painting or drawing, stay engaged with them as they show you their work. Ask your children questions about their artistic process and the choices that they made. Ask them to tell you the "story" behind the art.
From doodles to splotches, your child can go imaginative all the way. Sit down next to your children and draw together or write poems. Help them to see the artistic process as something that will be with them for their entire lives. Encourage your toddler to scribble and play with colours. As she grows up, introduce her to finer art forms such as pencil sketches, painting portraits, using poster or oil colours, painting murals and even frescoes.
Choose Toys that Inspire Imagination
Select toys that inspire imagination and construction and try open-ended toys that allow the child to decide how to use them. Toys like building blocks, puppets, animal figures and dolls, toy bricks and similar items provide hours of fun and countless opportunities for kids to stretch their imaginations. Role-play toys are great options too, because they encourage kids to play make-believe: cooking dinner in a kid-sized kitchen or building a house with a child-size tool set, camping out in a tent made with a sheet strategically draped over a table, or creating a cabin out of an over-sized cardboard carton.
Avoid toys that only require kids to press a button. Instead, visit a local toy shop and buy a selection of dress-up clothes and accessories. Kids will relish costuming themselves as pirates and policemen, nurses and princesses. A few well-chosen pieces and props will keep them busy for hours of imaginative play.