From the time my two granddaughters were infants, I’ve engaged with them in creative play. When they were babies, I draped a cloth over my head and let it slowly slide off until they giggled hysterically. I once drew a funny face on my knee and tied a scarf around it. As they got older, I made up stories and asked them to add details of their own. I’ve made up treasure hunts with clues when they came to our house for visits. Nurturing their imagination has inspired me to become more creative.
Now that they’re ten and seven, their world has expanded and so have their imaginations. One of our favorite imaginative activities is role-playing. I call them on the phone and using a different voice, I pretend to be someone else. Sometimes I’m a customer wanting to buy a product or select a travel destination or hire them for a service such as babysitting or horseback riding lessons. We’ve gotten so involved in our characters, we can spend an hour on the phone and all stay in character for the entire call. Imagination helps children become adept at solving problems and facing challenges.
The Benefits of Imagination
- Improve communication: Children who play imaginary games or listen to lots of fairy tales, books, or stories spun by those around them tend to have noticeably better communication skills.
- Take control: Pretending allows a child to be anyone he wants, explore negative emotions, practice things he’s learned, and make situations turn out the way he wants them to.
- Solve problems: Dreaming up imaginary situations teaches a child to think creatively, which can be an asset in solving problems.
- Build self-esteem: Young children have very little control over their lives. Imagining yourself as a builder of skyscrapers is empowering to a child. It helps them develop confidence in their abilities and their potential.
- Boost intelligence: Using the imagination is the beginning of abstract thought.
- Develop social skills: As children play pretend, they explore relationships between family members, friends and co-workers and learn more about how people interact.
How to Spark Imagination
- Read books together
- Share stories
- Make music
- Encourage pretend play
- Provide props
- Ask questions
- Limit television
We can’t give our grandchildren talent, but we can train their eyes and ears and minds to gain access to a creative way of seeing. We can also help them gain the concentration, competence, perseverance, and optimism necessary to succeed in creative pursuits.