I am a big proponent of imagination in children and I recently came across a website promoting the importance of imagination. You can read the full article here babycenter, but I’m going to refer to several points from the article.
We place play as an important part of the day in our preschool program. Children learn best at this age through natural play. Now some people may look at play as just something a child does, but there are many important functions that play serves. Play naturally fosters imagination and future academic skills. For instance, children that spend time engaged in make-believe play and listening to stories usually have larger vocabularies. Yet again another reason to read to your child every night.
A lot of imaginative play happens in our house area of the classroom. Here, many children learn social rules. Children make plans as to assigned roles and jobs (who’s going to be the daddy, mommy, etc.) and how to use the objects in that area. This all fosters those skills needed in later grades for sharing, solving problems, and getting along with peers. Without these skills, children often have difficulties learning later on.
Some ways that you can encourage imagination in your own child:
- Read to your child. Now at this stage some children are ready to sit and listen attentively to a book and some children are simply interested in the pictures. Both children are getting important information. Don’t try to stop your younger child if they don’t want to hear you read each page entirely. There is research in a type of reading called dialogical reading that has just as much an important impact on developing children’s vocabularies. This is where you let the child lead you through the book by looking at the pictures and having an active conversation about the pictures. You make comments about the pictures, ask questions, and make inferences. Most children start out at this stage when looking at books. You might find your child later looking at books and making up stories to themselves about the pictures.
- Let your child build. Be patient when your child is turning your house upside down. I know that my 3 and 5 year olds enjoy making tents with our couch cushions and blankets. Allow your child to build things out of objects and make organized messes. This is their way of seeing how the objects in their world work and developing problem solving skills.
- Limit television watching. Have you noticed how children are often drawn to the tv? There are some educational shows out there, however, they tend to limit imagination since the tv is doing all the visualizing for them. Most studies recommend limiting tv to less than an hour a day. Even having the tv on when no one is watching it can be distracting to their little brains.
- Reduce the amount of toys out at one time. Having too many choices can overload a young child and actually limit their imagination. When they are playing and don’t have the needed plane toy, they will use their imagination to come up with a solution. You can rotate toys in and out by putting only a few out at a time. This also limits the amount of time to clean up and enables them to be more successful at helping to clean up.