Children's Imagination Is Important. Why We Should Be Encouraging Its Development!
using their imagination. Just like when they play-act, where they pretend to have attitudes or feelings that they don’t really have..the imagination kicks in and suddenly there’s a scenario where they’ve got their toys or an item of any description with them, they possibly even assume a character, some children even turn themselves into aeroplanes, machines or robots..the list is endless, just like imagination. The scene actually comes to life in their eyes; where that doll or toy is literally having a real experience, and the child is sharing that experience too.
To a child, there is no middle ground, it’s either black or white and literal. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad, cool or not cool, funny or not funny, nice or not nice. Obviously, that changes over time, and it’s not easy to pinpoint exactly when the change takes place but it’s usually around the age of 5, that’s when they start reasoning emotionally too.
There are times when we get to play with them and become part of that imaginary world.
When we read with them when they are small, we get to share in the imaginary world of what we read with them and become a part of their reactive imagination in those moments.
This is the positive, creative, favourable side of the imagination in a child, for this ability and freedom to imagine and pretend can bring great rewards. It is also one of the best things about being a child. There could be a lot going on around them, some things not so good, but when their imaginations are encouraged positively and are vivid, it can be a protective feature!
We use this gift of imagination on a daily basis regardless of whether we are children or adults.
Our imaginations are a powerful and inherent gift that can work for us or against us. Let me clarify what I mean when I say this;
Our imaginations can be the success story for each of us. Successful people have usually imagined one way or another themselves being a success in one way or another.
Children, at least up until the age of 5, as mentioned above mostly think literally, that is, their reasoning skills are limited at this stage of development, particularly emotionally, those times where if they’re refused something, a tantrum or sulk follows suit, as it tends to be the only way that they know how to respond. They also are not fully discerning when there is interaction with others, for instance, a big fluffy dog may come bouncing up to them wanting to play, some children might interpret this as some sort of Cujo attempting to harm them in some way. An authority figure might make a light-hearted comment that could be interpreted differently and detrimentally by a child, so this demonstrates how our imagination can go awry and work against us if we don’t learn to train it.
“Pretending” is an important step to growing up. Why do I say this? Please allow me to explain.
As we mature, life slowly develops further and things are no longer black and white. We start to discover that there’s a colour called grey, and that’s when things aren’t black and white anymore.
We discover that our parents aren’t perfect, there are some people that say mean things, and we discover feelings that we don’t like.
As our view of the world expands, that little world where it’s black and white, where our toys come to life and we actually become real superheroes starts to fade away into the past and we pretend less and enter into the maturity of learning to understand a world where things are mostly not black and white.
This is a form of ‘pretend’ as we are training ourselves to imagine that we can do something to alleviate an issue, even if we might not really be sure because life isn’t black and white at all.
The good news is that we don’t lose the ability to imagine and play pretend, but rather, imagination and playing pretend are skills that get honed in over the course of life and if trained and directed in a positive manner, can be put to productive use in the real world!
As adults, we are all busy with our imaginations in some form. Some of us dream of having vast financial means and picture all of the things those means provide. Some picture being with that perfect partner, whether they exist or not. Some imagine that they will be together with that person who is a negative influence in their life forever, even if it’s not good for them. Some picture themselves never losing those excess pounds, or being free from that smoking habit. There are those that see their own lives as their ‘lot’ and accept their ‘lot’, good or not so good. Well, it’s all in the imagination, good or not so good.
When we start behaving in ways that cause ourselves suffering, or suffering to others, that is the time to train our imaginations to work with us to change things for the better. For example, if a person had previously given up smoking, using their will to give up and had done so for a few months, but then had started again, that is an indication that their imagination and will are not in agreement. The will is decided on not smoking, but the imagination is still depicting the self as a smoker
With young children, they are at an advantage, they are the most successful with using their imaginations and at ‘pretending’.
We can help and assist them with training their imaginations to support them in succeeding with the trials of life as they go along ; such as having to learn to deal with experiences like starting to nursery school/kindergarten, childminders, extended and or blended families, making friends, confidence within, school, divorce, bereavement, health issues, and learning too.
In our fast-paced lives, children, in general, have a lot to deal with. It is not always the case where they are tolerant of being taken out of the secure routine of their home environment and /or having to deal with people that they might not necessarily want to.
People are just people; not everyone has an agenda, but figures of authority can appear to be disparaging, critical, even perceived as threatening, whether deliberate or not, and other children can say mean and hurtful things to each other. There are people that some children just don’t like, for whatever reason, that they find it difficult to elaborate. Things go awry at home too for whatever reason; kids pick up on energy and discourse in others too! These circumstances can lead to issues with behaviours and perceptions.
The capacity for interacting, giving children assurances and affirmations of positive suggestions, using a form of storytelling that refers personally to them, and methods that stimulate their imagination in a positive way and really listening to them is an effective and productive tool.
Helping a child use their imagination for personal success is filled with unlimited potential.
Can you imagine being able to replace negative self-image, with a positive self-image using your imagination?
Could you imagine being able to imagine being relaxed and confident when you have to sit tests or speak in front of others/recitals/sporting events/auditions?
Would you imagine that you could be yourself and not worry about what others think of you because you radiate warmth and acceptance toward yourself and others, so why would you be worried about what others think of you!
So simple really, it’s just learning to re-imagine the imagination…that’s all. Find out more in Marie Jack's book When I Squish my eyes Shut!