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  • Fostering Imagination in Children

    Imagination is an important skill in life – especially now that technology is taking many jobs. With a large portion of existing jobs said to die off within the next 20 years and the jobs set to take their place currently non-existent – imagination is obviously an important skill for your child’s future.

    So why then, are we suffocating our children’s imaginations?

    Contrary to what many people believe, we are not simply born with an imagination, it is a skill that we must grow and cultivate within ourselves. These days, thanks to technology, many children find it extremely hard to imagine anything outside of what they have seen on a screen – this is why imaginative free play is so important for children. What's more, it can happen anywhere at any time and doesn’t need the internet, to load up, or a full battery, to work.

    Encouraging your child to engage in imaginative play can be difficult, especially if this is not something they have done before. It is also important that once they have the hang of it, that you leave them to play alone as this will cultivate a stronger sense of imagination in them.

    How to cultivate imagination in your child

    Story time!

    Demonstrate your imagination by telling your children a completely made up narrative. Take the opportunity in a quiet moment, maybe as the children are winding down before bed, to tell your children an imaginative story. Tell them to lie down on their front and relax while you tell them a fable. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine the characters that you describe in your story and encourage them to ask questions or participate to build upon your tale.

    You can also do this practice when you are reading a book to your child. Instead of showing them the pictures (if it is a picture book), ask them to imagine what is happening and what that looks like in their head.

    Eventually you can turn the tables and ask your children to tell you an imaginative story. This can be a really nice opportunity for some family time as each family member can either tell their own imaginative tale or you can take turns building upon the one narrative and see where your collective imagination takes you!

    Imaginative free play

    Here are some ideas to spark some imaginative free play in your child:

    • Ask them to build something out of whatever materials they can find in the backyard (preferably not the materials they are meant for). Ask them if they can build a house or even a little town out of sticks, stones and plants. Many children enjoy creating fairy, elf or gnome gardens.
    • Take the toys! Less is definitely more when it comes to developing the imagination. The more toys and stimulation children have around them, the more likely they are to use these toys for their one intended purpose – often narrowing a child’s imagination. A toy doll is never imagined to be anything but a toy doll and a toy gun usually only serves as a toy gun in children’s play. Though children can engage in imaginative role playing with these toys, removing them allows for any number of stories to unfold and children will create their own ‘props’ for whatever game they may be playing. For example, a stick in imaginative play is no longer a stick but could become a wand, a gun, a secret scroll, a sword, a broom, a horse to ride, a walking cane or something else you’d never imagine!
    • What’s their favourite movie or tv show? Suggest to your child that he or she plays out a ‘spin-off’ staring their favourite character. Encourage them to develop new characters and expand on the world that they have seen on the screen, to really make it their own.

    As with all free play, it is best that adults are left out of it. Though some kids may prefer to play in groups or with others, imaginative play can be done alone – using the imagination to its fullest! If your child does want you to play along in some of their imaginative games, try to ensure that they are the leader and see where their imagination takes you.

    Imaginative play is excellent for a child’s development in so many ways; not only is it working their brain and stretching their imagination, this kind of play is a lot more physically active than other passive forms of entertainment such as watching TV or playing computer games. So what are you waiting for? Let’s get some imaginative play in today!

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