Imagination is the engine of ideas
“Imagination is more important than knowledge” — Albert Einstein
We just got back from a trip to the moon! What an adventure! Our space shuttle “shook” as it launched. We felt the rocket boosters separate. And my grandson and I “bounced” on the moon’s surface, collecting moon rock samples.
Numerous research studies document the educational value of child-directed, imaginative play that lets children explore old ideas and form new ones. Indeed, it’s innovative (imaginative) thinking that helps adults rebuild communities, create better computers and cars, design new medical technologies, explore the universe and develop alternative energy sources.
Your grandchildren develop school readiness skills as well as critical attributes for success in life and work through imaginative play. This type of play lets them understand how they relate to the world around them, be innovative, feel compassion, handle fearful situations, develop problem-solving skills, delay gratification, practice new skills, learn cooperative play, negotiate conflicts and increase communication skills.
And it’s active, rather than passive, play that helps develop a child’s imagination. Watching cars on television doesn’t require the child to do anything. Pretending to drive a car requires the child to
• figure out what he has to do to drive a car (steering, braking)
• make the sounds of the car
• fill the car with gas to go
• plan where she is going and how to get there.
While make-believe is key to children’s healthy mental, physical, social and emotional development, imagination is not innate. It must be developed.
Want to foster your grandchild’s imagination? Turn off the TV and DVR. Put away electronic games and battery-operated toys. Read books that can transport children to imaginary worlds. And provide the opportunity and encouragement for your grandchild — no matter their age — to explore imaginative play with household items:
• Space shuttle, space station and launch pad; or a theater for puppet show or dramatic play: large cardboard appliance boxes, furniture, old sheets and blankets
• Pretend business or vacation trips: recycled clothes, briefcase or suitcase; junk mail/cardboard credit cards; old cell phone or camera
• Microphone for speeches or karaoke; or binoculars to go on safari: paper towel cardboard tubes
• Cities, helipad, car racetrack or a zoo for stuffed animals: wooden or cardboard blocks
• Grocery store or restaurant: empty, washed food containers (cereal and cake boxes, spice containers, plastic soup or yogurt cups); recycled shopping/grocery bags; Monopoly money; empty shelves or table
Next time your grandchild starts acting like a pirate, goes on a mission to the moon, becomes a favorite book or movie character or performs an impromptu concert, remember how much learning is going on. Let the child direct the play activity — and join in the fun!
Link to more fun at PlayActivities.com.
Remy Agee is the former Anne Arundel County (MD) Child Care Coordinator and retired as Director of Communications at a large family and children government agency. She has conducted county, state and national workshops on school readiness and early childhood partnerships. She now focuses on developing and writing articles for parents, grandparents and early childhood professionals.