Exploring Imagination

We all enjoy the imaginations of children.  Parents and teachers are often amazed at the ideas of young children.  In the preschool years, children’s questions and thinking are not fettered by the rules of society, physics, or logic.  Anything goes, so hang on to your hat!

Imagination is Vital to Learning

It was Albert Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  That is especially true for people who live in a changing world.  Yesterday’s solutions will not work for tomorrow’s problems.  Children need an opportunity to develop the ability to visualize scenes and solutions that are not right in front of them.  To be able to read, learn about history, geography, mathematics, and most other subjects in school, it helps a child to be able to create a mental picture of things.  The “raw materials” for this skill are developed in the [toddler, preschool, and early childhood] years and at Kindermusik.

Create a Wealth of Experiences

To develop your child’s imagination, give him a wealth of interesting direct experiences using all of the senses.  The root word of imagination is image.  Provide your child with an opportunity to create many images.  Try sensory experiences like playing with water and sand, cooking, or dancing to your Kindermusik CD.

“Open-ended” activities encourage the development of imagination.  Those are activities where there is not one particular “right answer” or product.  For example, give your child art materials to use such as crayons or paint.  Instead of telling her what to draw, try saying, “I wonder what you’ll come up with this time.”  Then be surprised.  Show interest and delight in her work, and invite her to explain it to you.

Pretend play is a great avenue for a child’s imagination.  Provide some dress-up clothes or “props” from your playset and enjoy the show.  When a child uses objects for pretend, such as a paper plate for a steering wheel, she is actually creating her own symbols for “real” things she has seen.

Storytelling, as well as reading to your child, are other great ways to develop imagination.  When you tell a story with no book, your child can form the pictures in her mind.  Your facial expressions and intonations, as well as your words, can help her understand the story.  After she has heard you read a story, she will naturally enjoy telling stories herself.  Try forming the “framework” of a story and let her fill in the details.  In the following example, wherever there is a blank, let the child fill in any word or words that come to her.  Then you can continue the story with connecting phrases.

“Once upon a time there was a (bear).  This bear, who’s name was (Fuzzy) was very very (dirty).  He was so dirty that (his mother wouldn’t let him come in the house).  Now that caused a problem because…”

These stories are fun because you never know where they’ll lead.  You could tape record them and write them down later.

Don’t All Children Have Imagination?

All children have the potential for a rich imagination, but you can help increase that potential.  Avoid unlimited exposure to television – many hours in front of the TV absorbing “canned entertainment” can create a passive child waiting to be entertained instead of one creating his own ideas.

Encourage free thought and creativity by not getting too caught up in reality.  Compliment your child on her ideas instead of her looks.  “You have such good ideas…I never know what you’ll think of next.”  Show interest in her and you can be sure that your child will continue to express the wondrous products of her brain.

– written for Kindermusik International by Karen Miller, Early Childhood Expert, Consultant, and Author

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