Imagination is so important to child development because it expands our kids’ knowledge and understanding of their life experiences.
How often have you walked into your kids playing and you hear them recreating things they’ve done recently? They play pretend school or pretend they’re firefighters after they’ve talked about community helpers at school. When kids use their imagination in pretend play, role-playing as other characters, they practice what it’s like to be someone else, helping them develop empathy and understanding for others. And then they also use imagination – we all do- to explore new ideas.
Our kids’ imaginations are the precursors to creativity, and its through creativity that they’ll navigate life and their contributions to the world. This world only gets better if our kids are able to imagine it a better place, and put that imagination and creativity into action. It’s that ability, which is really a lifelong skill, to bring together what we know and are experiencing, with creating new ideas and dreaming of possibilities. When our kids are using their imaginations, they’re learning the skills they’ll need as adults for creative problem solving, discovering and inventing new things, not to mention being able to contribute to this world creatively and artistically.
Imagination also fosters their brain and social development. We want to raise kids with high IQ and high EQs, right? Imagining, experimenting, problem solving are so important. And on the social side, kids can experiment with different ways of doing things, find resolutions to their own problems, which can raise their level of self-confidence. Imagination is critical if we want to raise world changers.
Imagination is the door to possibility. Knowledge is limited to what we know or understand in a moment, but imagination allows us to explore and create new knowledge and understanding.
So, with all of summer ahead of us, here are 3 ways we can lead our kids to exploring their imaginations:
- Spend time outside.
We live in Miami so summer is a rainy season, but the mornings are usually beautiful so we’ve made a commitment to try to get outside early in the day before the afternoon rains set in.
As a mom, I love this one because my kids don’t really need a lot from me when they’re let loose outside. The other day they found a snail and spent over an hour just watching it move and then finding leaves and twigs to lay near it to feed it. And that’s the thing about nature and the outdoors – it’s never the same so there are so many opportunities for our kids to discover, imagine, and create.
Lately, my kids have also been big into scavenger hunts outside. So sometimes I’ll just make my own list for them, or often I’ll just Google a scavenger hunt list, and they grab a bag and head into the backyard and have so much fun exploring and trying to find everything.
Even something as simple as laying on the grass and looking up at the sky can inspire our imaginations, so you don’t have to overcomplicate this. It’s the value of unstructured play. My 3-year-old daughter’s been going through this little phase of telling us, “I’m bored” and Jeff and I respond “ok” or “that’s fine” – rather than rushing to entertain her. We try to let her figure it out, because often that boredom can really push our kids to use their imaginations to entertain themselves!
- Lots of story time.
We all know how good reading with our kids is for them, and it’s also one of the best ways to foster their imaginations. It’s not just phonics and sounds, but their minds are really opened up to so many new ideas and ways of doing things.
My kids are starting to explore chapter books that don’t have pictures on each page, and as far as imagination goes, this has been so fun because I can see them practicing creating the scenes in their minds as I read the words to them. We stop and talk about what we think it looks like and it’s fun how we interpret and picture the same words in different ways in our mind.
This summer, you can also take it a step further and make up your own stories! Talk about an exercise in imagination – just let them create. Silly stories. Scary stories. Stories about family members or family pets. Adventures. Fairytales. Anything!
You can also ask your children to tell you stories about everyday things you see. Sometimes if we’re out to eat, Jeff and I will just point out a random person to them and ask them, “what do you think his story is?” And they’ll make up a story – sometimes it’s a sad story, because they’ll notice the person looks lonely. Sometimes its a silly scenario they’ll come up with. I just let them narrate what comes to mind for them and it’s a fun exploration of their imaginations.
- Let the small stuff slide.
This one’s directed at you, friend! My encouragement to you this summer is to worry a little less about how clean the house is, or whether the garage is getting re-organized, or keeping your calendar chalk full of events and activities. Summer is short, and it’s going to go by in a blur, so just try to stay present and make some memories. Join them in their imaginary play – you don’t have to be a professional artist. Paint with them, get some sidewalk chalk, take up a new hobby, start learning an instrument, plant a garden – just be free in your imagination and your kiddos are going to follow suit.
I don’t have to tell you, kids are messy and noisy – but guess what?! So is a lot of creativity! Summer’s the time to embrace it. So maybe it’s time to take out the glitter you’ve been hiding on a high shelf away from the kids. Or let the playdoh colors get all mixed together. Or let your kids experiment in the kitchen.
Personally, using our imaginations in the kitchen is one of my favorite childhood memories. My mom used to just let us go to town. I’m the oldest of 5 kids so I just remember these afternoons where we’d all play together in the kitchen. Sometimes we’d take turns blindfolding each other, then going through the pantry and spice rack and making a game of who could correctly guess the most things they blind tasted!
So its summer, let your hair down, embrace a little chaos, maybe even join in on the messiness, because this time with your family is priceless, friends!
Alright Mamas, as we do every Motherhood Monday, let’s start our week off on the right foot in prayer.
God, you have the ultimate imagination, and we know we were created in Your image. Thank you for the gift of imagination and let it loose in our homes this summer. You imagined everything we’ve experienced, have yet to experience, and more. You imagined all the colors, all of nature and animals, all of humanity, the entire universe – it’s incredible.
We ask you to pour out new ideas, solutions, and insight through our imaginations, God. Let us help our children to see each day as an opportunity to let their curiosity guide. It’s when we get curious about people and about the workings of this world through our imaginations that we can use our creativity in helping our communities and glorifying Your name.
Guide us in leading our kids to use their imaginations for the benefit of everyone and everything that comes their way so they can be more aware of Your presence. As our children continue to develop the imaginations you entrusted to them, let it be for the good of others. Let us imagine fearlessly and with purpose and passion.
In any way that our imaginations or our children’s imaginations have been stifled, encourage and inspire them to imagine again. Bless us to receive Your love and light and to live in wonder as we imagine. Bless us with the boldness to bring the visions of our imaginations to life. We love you. We praise you. We’re grateful for you. And it’s in Jesus’ name we pray – Amen!