Imagination lies at the heart of being human. Without imagination, life has no meaning and no sparkle, problems remain unsolved and life becomes flat. While giving lip service to the importance of imagination,
our culture does much to dampen our children’s imaginative abilities. Toys that have only one answer, prepackaged entertainment (i.e., television, videos and many computer games), schooling that involves too
much rote memorization, and even the negative, fear-based attitudes that pervade our culture all deaden our children’s ability to live in the imaginative world. If ever we have needed imagination, it is now. Imagination is the key to solving our world’s problems. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” All the knowledge in the world won’t fix anything unless we have the creativity to imagine new solutions and new ways of living.
As parents, we have so many ways to foster our children’s imagination. I guard my children’s imaginations like a jealous hound, for I know that the more we encourage our children to exercise their creativity, the stronger learners they will become. Allowing our children the time to experience hours of fantasy play and hours of outdoor play with a minimum of toys, and even giving them plenty of opportunities to be bored without rescuing them, fosters our children’s creative abilities. When we fill our house with the materials to make things (and it is remarkable what they will create out of string, sticks and boxes!), and we allow our children the freedom to make messes and mistakes with these materials, their imagination will lead them to amazing heights. The more tightly we structure days and close off the opportunities for openended play, the harder it is for our children to strengthen their imaginative muscles.
When making decisions that affect our children’s day, do we keep imagination in mind? If we send our child to day care, how much time does that facility dedicate to open-ended play? If we are home with our children, are we home long enough each day for them to fall into the land of make-believe deeply enough that they almost forget about the real world? When we buy toys, do we look for toys that engage our children’s imaginative capacities? The simple choices we make over and over again will facilitate or dampen our children’s relationship with the imaginative world.
[Reprinted from Under the Chinaberry Tree with permission from Random House Publishing.]