“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” —Albert Einstein
Imagination: Just thinking about this word opens the door for a free flow of fantastic creative ideas, a childlike energy, endless possibilities and gleeful spontaneity. Imagination is a valuable attribute and it is especially important to foster in our children. The ability to use our imaginations and suspend reality is something that springboards us into our enjoyment of books and films and makes us feel inspired.
Take a moment to watch a young child play alone and you will experience first hand the magic that comes from imagination. Creative thought turns the ordinary into a magical experience. Taking a moment to view the world through a child’s eyes is enough to bring back the joy and wonder of our own childhood. Children especially love to imagine they are something or someone they are not. Whether playing dress-up, pretending to be a super-hero, building a tent-fort, or dressing up the dog, imaginative play is an important part of child development. Children who use their imaginations are generally happier than those who are less imaginative – they tend to be more cooperative, more alert, better able to solve problems, are ready to cope with life’s twists and turns, and are more likely to grow into well-adjusted, secure adults.
Child experts note that a child’s imagination serves many important developmental functions. Imaginary play is a way for children to make sense of and understand the world around them, practice real life skills, and commit events to memory. Children use imaginary play to work through feelings of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Imaginative play encourages enhanced communication as well as a rich vocabulary – telling and hearing real or make-believe stories helps children learn and retain new words. When a child engages in pretend play, he or she is actively experimenting with important social and emotional roles of life.
Some of the most influential and innovative inventions have come from the simple act of imagining something different. Scientists and artists have an amazing gift for thinking “outside the box” and allowing their imaginations the freedom to grow and evolve their thoughts (many of which have created products that have changed the way we live today). Without this creative energy we may never have experienced the Internet, smart-phones, airplanes, and other amazing technologies. Simply said, imagination is the key component to the growth, development and the advancement of our world.
If children spend hours watching television, sitting at a computer or playing video games, they are passive participants captivated by someone else’s make-believe world instead of having the time and space to dream up their own. Because imaginative play is such a healthy contributor to a child’s overall development and well being, we should be actively promoting imaginative play. Parents can encourage their child’s imagination by providing props that aid in their imaginative play or even a designated space that is designed to encourage them to imagine and pretend. My dad maintains that when we give a child a simple cardboard box it is not ‘just a box’ – it is the best toy ever as it transforms magically into a powerful rocket, a pirate ship, a house, or a racing car. Imaginative play is clearly more than just something that children do to pass the time and keep themselves entertained. It’s a valuable way in which children develop some of the primary skills that will aid them later on in life.