To have a vivid imagination is to have a valuable tool. It unleashes magical worlds and rich landscapes into which children can escape and explore. It inspires creative problem solving and issue management abilities in adults, powerful skills that can make a huge difference in life. It is a magical part of being human that demands attention and care.
Too much TV and playing computer games will slowly dampen your child’s ability to escape into imaginary worlds, why bother when there are other devices doing it for them? This takes away something truly special that should be an integral part of childhood.
“When I was a child in South Africa I would really look forward to oxtail stew night,” said Ian Mackay, “On this night, after dinner was eaten and the dishes were washed, my mother would give me the oxtail bones to play with. I would become the Voortrekkers, exploring new lands and discovering new species. Even today, when I eat oxtail stew, it brings back many wonderful memories.”
You don’t need expensive toys or fancy equipment to create a magical world for your children. In fact, the less worldly props the better. Toilet paper tubes, newspaper, pillows, blankets and other such handy household goodies are all fabulous tools that won’t cost you a cent.
Starting out on your imagination-building adventure may seem a little weird at first. Our adult imaginations are a little rusty as it’s been a while since we’ve last build a pirate ship on the sofa. Your kids may also look at you with a certain amount of suspicion. Why is mommy (or daddy) putting that toilet roll to her eye and shouting, “Yaarrr!”
Here are some tips on how to get you and your family’s imaginations all fired up and ready to go:
Brave new worlds
While reading to your children, ask them to go into more detail about what’s happening in the pictures. Let them create brilliant new stories within the original, and allow yourself to be carried away too.
It’s all too easy to get bored or want to hurry up storytime so you can grab a cuppa and watch the telly but try and devote at least an hour a night to reading and imagining. Soon you will find yourself enjoying the stories yourself!
Fab Idea: Try writing down their little stories. Once you have enough of them, create a mini book along with photos and their own artwork as a keepsake. Photobox and other such sites have photobooks that will suit this perfectly. These can make stunning gifts for grandparents and keepsakes for the future.
Music, the one thing that humans adore and that is so wonderfully versatile and personal. Spend some time with your children listening to all sorts of different music. Take note of their favourite artists and tracks and ask them to make their own dances or stories to go with them.
Create a stage in the living room, complete with pretend curtains, and hold a special performance (parent attendance is mandatory).
Another lovely imaginative device to use with music is drawing. Give them a wide variety of drawing tools and ask them to draw and create something that has been inspired by the music.
Fab Idea: This is when your video camera (or mobile phone) will come in handy. Video their performances, subtly if you can, and keep them in a safe place. These will be a divinely nostalgic reminder one day.
While most of the activities here are obviously teetering within the bounds of pretend play, you should also try and actively encourage a completely imaginative world. You can help them initially by suggesting a scenario and helping them to build it. Forts, pirate ships, secret bunkers and other such amazing hidey-holes created by pillows, chairs, blankets and toys, are an essential part of any childhood.
Help them to build their fort, give them some basic tools and unleash their imaginations. It’s amazing how useful and powerful a tool this can be. Children can use this to work through difficult emotions, to deal with new challenges and situations and to deal with certain issues. It is an invaluable trick to teach them.
Fab Idea: Nab that old pile of sheets, the pillows and some food and help them to create a pirate ship in the lounge. Ignore your inner Tidy Up Mum and just let them go mad. Take photos and keep them for your albums and story books too.
These are just some ideas that will help you and your children to recapture the power of your imaginations. Doing so is extremely important for their cognitive development, their problem solving skills and their ability to entertain themselves, making for well-rounded adults with good life skills.