I walked into the family room and there-toga and all-stood a Greek goddess. Her subjects were in an elaborate setting in sheet draped tents. They too had raided the linen closet as was apparent with their Greek costumes, and they were clearly her servants as they bowed to her every command. Our living room was almost daily transformed into some imaginative setting. Often their American Girl dolls had homes and stores and tea rooms on the sofa and ottoman as they pretended they were living in the early 1900’s with Samantha and her cohorts. Summertime meant that they were orphans in the tree house with only bread that they managed to take from the house as their sustenance. They led very impoverished and heroic lives out there in the yard. Such were the different imaginations of my five daughters growing up. How did they come to have such vivid imaginations I sometimes wonder?
Perhaps one factor that made it possible is that when my husband and I got married we decided not to put a TV in our home. We wanted to spend quality time together with each other, our friends and our one day family. The kids weren’t totally deprived as we did get a small TV for the purpose of watching videos (on a VCR back then) which we did on Friday nights. We made pizza and spread a big blanket on the floor. We all ate pizza and watched a movie together in the family room.
Maybe because I was their homeschool teacher who had the privilege of teaching each of them to read. Read we did, a lot of it and that helped grow their imaginations. I usually had a book that I read aloud to them. They loved to listen to classical books on tape we went on trips. Rest time was mandatory at our house as well and that meant reading time for the older ones. I chose curriculum that was heavy on literature, especially historical literature. Each of my girls developed a love for reading. Each of them still enjoy reading and some even love to write.
Our summers were spent in a far away place with no outside interferences like TV, telephones, gadgets and at first even any electricity. We got up when it was light and went to bed by lantern light. The girls would spend their days in the lake pretending they were mermaids or shipwrecked. They hiked and spent the majority of time outside collecting pine cones and leaves for crafts or for making mud-pies. It was the perfect place to grow one’s imagination.
Today technology has changed the way we do things. My young grandkids have iPads and all the many channels TV has to offer. They are involved in many sports and activities at such a young age. Is there room for their imaginations to grow and develop like their mother’s did? Yet when I visit they are playing with their American girls, one of which was their mother’s, and they have set up elaborate homes for them. The staircase is often filled with their many Barbies and make believe scenarios that they play. They love to create crafts and draw and paint. I enjoy watching them play with their cousins and the way they make up fun and creative things to do. Everyone knows that the toddler at Christmas time loves the box the gift came in more than the gift itself! My two year old granddaughter has spent many happy minutes playing in an empty box.
Einstein said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
“The ability to imagine things pervades our entire existence. It influences everything we do, think about and create. It leads to elaborate theories, dreams and inventions in any profession from the realms of academia to engineering and the arts.” (Aboutmybrain.com)
An article from Bright Horizons states this:
“Trying new ways of doing things and experimenting help develop critical thinking in children and foster creative problem solving. Furthermore, imagination builds social-emotional development by allowing children to contemplate different resolutions, thus boosting children’s confidence, which can be used in interactions with others. Imagination and creativity are also skills that our children will need when they join the workforce of the future.”
Even at a young age children have vivid imaginations that are ready to be developed given the time. Time. I think that’s really all that is necessary for that creative spark to ignite. Time alone with a few resources and few outside distractions. Time to think and fill their space with make believe. To just play. I loved watching my children play and my grandchildren now. It is amazing what the mind can think of when not inhibited or weighted down with distractions. The next time your living room is transformed into a scene out of your children’s creative juices be awed by them and even join in….if your imagination allows you to!