The average American parent spends hundreds of dollars on toys for their children each year, but the grandest of all “toys” is simply a well-developed imagination. Imagination turns sticks into swords, or spoons, or paddles, or a fire to warm your hands in the deep forest under the picnic table.
From my limited experience, imagination comes pretty naturally to children. My desire as a mom is to foster it and channel it toward what is good and true and beautiful.
Drawing from the excellent tongue-in-cheek advice in Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, these are a few ways I’m seeking to help my children’s imagination blossom.
One of the highlights of Will’s summer has been catching and playing with frogs
Read good stories
Stories ignite our imagination and shape our affections.
Sometimes imaginative play is lackluster. Sometimes it borders on depressive or mean or ugly.
Make time to pour in more good stories: stories where good conquers evil, where true beauty is magnified, and truth is vindicated. Read stories that aspire to the noble and embrace the adventure in common things. (Here is a growing list of our favorite picture storybooks.)
Turn off the electronics
In his poetic rant against the television Roald Dahl claimed the TV
… ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND…
Sometimes a movie is just the sanity-saving “babysitter” I need. With few exceptions though, electronics promote passive reception, not active imagination.
Maybe my kids are just weird, but even a short video dramatically decreases their ability to entertain themselves.
Send them outside
Sometimes my kids drag their feet when I tell them it’s time to go outside to play. The funny thing is, it usually only takes five minutes in the great outdoors to become totally engrossed in play.
So, when they don’t want to play outdoors, I tell them to play for ten minutes and then I’ll let them come back inside. I can count on one hand the amount of times they’ve wanted to.
Let them get bored
Don’t fill your schedule with so many structured activities and planned play dates that they don’t have time to just be kids.
Don’t always micromanage everything
Have you ever read a kid’s book from decades ago and been shocked at the free-reign children were given (and how maturely they often handled it)?
My tendency is to be a mother-hen type mom. Joshua wisely encouraged me that it’s okay to let them learn to play together without my constant interaction.
Let them figure out their own games. Let them make up their own stories. Let them practice working together. Let them learn to say “please” and “sorry” without needing your reminder.
How do you foster your child’s imagination?
[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]