Imagination and creativity are hallmarks of childhood. A kid can turn anything into an exciting adventure. Whether it’s a cardboard box that suddenly morphs into a magical kingdom for stuffed animals and tea parties, or a crayon and piece of paper that allows a child to design their very own comic book, creativity abounds. And, believe it or not, you can be an ally by nurturing this sense of imagination.
The Relationship Between Imagination and Age
Think back to when you were a kid and you could turn anything into an exciting adventure or mythical wonderland. Now think about your life today and how much more practical and pragmatic you are. Did you forget how to be imaginative? Are you no longer capable of creative thought? Well, you might be trending in that direction!
According to new research from psychologists at UC Berkeley, creativity actually does decline as we age. They ran a series of interesting experiments and discovered that adults resort to much less creative thought processes than children do. But here’s the interesting part: Anyone can be taught to be more creative and imaginative. For adults, it requires a lot of work to go back and reengineer the way we think. But for kids, we can help them cultivate their imagination now so that it never loses its flame.
How to Nurture Your Child’s Imagination
There are some rather simple steps you can take to equip your children with creativity and encourage them to be more imaginative. Here are several:
1.Questions Over Directions
As parents, we’re used to giving our children directions. And most of the time, it’s the right thing to do. We tell them things like brush your teeth, don’t play in the middle of the road, and eat your vegetables so that they’re safe and healthy. But when it comes to imagination, directions can actually have an adverse effect. We recommend asking questions instead.
For example, let’s say your child wants to make a fort in the backyard. Rather than telling them to go bring you a hammer, nails, wood, and tape measure, ask them what they think you’ll need. This forces them to be creative. Some of their answers might be a little outside of the proverbial box, but that’s okay! Continue to ask questions throughout the process and teach them to harness the power of creative thought.
2.Structured Free Play
It’s very important that you teach your child the art of free play and spending time alone. You do not exist to entertain your child, nor should you feel the pressure to constantly give them something to do. If you’re always calling the shots, you could actually zap some of their creative thoughts and teach them to simply follow directions.
One of the best things you can do is encourage structured free play. This is where you set up different stations in your playroom and then give your child time to play on their own. One station might have art supplies, another might have blocks, and another might have dress up clothes or puppets. They’re in charge of what they play with, but you’re setting them up well to use their imaginations.
Countless studies show the power of nature to amplify creativity and imagination.
As the Child Mind Institute explains, “This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.”
Rather than giving your child a tablet or smartphone, give them a fun backpack and send them out in the backyard to explore. Encourage them to search for rocks, build forts, and create their own games. Time spent outside is always time well spent.
If you’re like most families, you probably have a bedtime routine that involves reading books. But every now and then you can switch things up and tell your own stories. Ask your child to pick a person, place, and object, then you tell a story that incorporates all three elements. After modeling how it works, flip the script and have your child tell a story using three elements that you come up with. This teaches them to be imaginative within a structured framework.
Give Your Child a Strong Foundation
Every child is different. Even within the same family, you’ll have children with different personalities, strengths, and skills. But imagination is malleable and scalable. It can always be cultivated and grown. As the parent, you can do your part to encourage as much of this growth as possible.