Technology is fast becoming a major part of our everyday lives. There will be approximately 2.5 billion smartphone users by the year 2019, and smart devices for the home are also increasing in popularity. With this dependence on gadgets and electronics comes an ‘instant gratification society’ where feelings of fulfilment or pleasure are now expected to be satisfied without delay. Unfortunately, as a consequence, technology is slowly killing the human imagination. The importance of imagination is pivotal to the healthy development of any child.
When raising children in the 21st century, you cannot let their imaginations take a back seat. As Albert Einstein once said, ‘imagination is more important than knowledge’, and creativity is what feeds the imagination. Your children are your babies for a mere few years, so indulge their desire to be a superhero or a fairy when they grow up because imaginative children are those who go on to achieve big things.
It is easy to get lost in modern day advancements and forget the simple pleasures that can be derived from life’s most basic experiences, so below are some ideas for helping your child’s imagination grow without the use of technology!
Have a No-Electronics Day
An obvious idea but a valid one nonetheless. When you remove all screens and gadgets from the day’s schedule (and yes, that includes you, mum and dad) you are forced to find alternative ways to keep the kids entertained. Not only that, but a child who is allowed unlimited access to their iPad and YouTube barely has any time to think for themselves.
YouTube supplies an infinite stream of kids’ vlogs, toy unboxing, kids playing video games and all kinds of uninspiring videos. Yet you have probably found your child glued to them at times. Dedicate one day a week to becoming tech-free and you will find that your children can entertain themselves in other ways. They may protest at first and claim that they are ‘bored’, but give them a moment, as it has been proven that boredom improves creativity. Your Modern Family suggests that “No Technology Week” went as far as changing their kids and now helps them get along.
Get the Crafts Out
Who doesn’t love a craft day? Okay, so not all parents revel at the thought of glue sticks and glitter pots scattered all over the carpet, but arts and crafts are an essential part of a child’s development. For minimal mess, try flattening a large cardboard box and using it as a surface to paint on in the back garden. Rather than giving them paint pots that can easily be spilled, use an ice cube tray and add a small amount of each colour at a time.
Be careful not to let it turn into directed play though; this is an activity where you should really stand back and let the kids’ imaginations run wild. Even if you aren’t able to decipher the end result, the expression of emotions and ideas is important to help build their imagination. As well as giving them that sense of freedom, you are also helping to improve your child’s hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
On the rare days when the sun makes an appearance, make sure you encourage your children to play outside at every opportunity. You don’t even have to go far if you don’t have the time as even an hour in the back garden can do them the world of good. When outside, children can enjoy unstructured play and will have to make use of what is around them to create their own fun. For example, a sand pit can become an abandoned island with a hidden pirate treasure, or sticks can become swords or magic wands. The possibilities are endless.
Encourage Role Play
The first stages of creativity and imagination begin in infancy. A child will mimic an adult’s behaviour as early as their first year by putting a telephone up to their ear or pretending to comb their hair. This develops into a love of dressing up and role play. Letting your children dress up by investing in various costumes can be a great way to get that creative energy flowing.
Even if you don’t have an extensive costume collection, simple items you already have such as baby clothing, baby hats and even blankets can be turned into space helmets, capes, etc. Let them choose a hat and the adventure that goes with it!
Build a Den
You probably have numerous memories of making dens when you were growing up back in the day, and it has not lost its appeal! Gather all the spare sheets, blankets and pillows – then let them build their own hideaway. It can be indoors or outdoors, but make sure the structure is safe and will not fall down. Clothes pegs are a good idea to hold the sheets in place. You can help them to build it, but to really help them develop a sense of adventure, leave them to it once complete.
Hiding out in a secret place enhances a child’s sense of independence and lets them create their own rules and express themselves in a secure environment. Also, there is plenty of research to suggest that building a den is extremely important to a child’s development and consequently their sense of self.
Read Them Stories
The last but perhaps the most important tip we have for encouraging the imagination is story time. If you begin reading your child a story before they go to sleep as a baby, it will become a natural part of their bedtime routine as the years progress. You will probably find that they will always ask for a story to be read to them come bedtime, so it might be a good idea to get a few new books from the library to avoid it becoming predictable.
Reading to your child feeds them new ideas and encourages them to think and feel what the characters may be feeling. Ask them questions, such as, ‘what do you think will happen next?’, or, ‘why did the character choose to do that?’ This will help to increase their inventive capacity. Not only this but reading to your child helps develop their vocabulary. If you need some inspiration here’s 10 brilliant books to read to your child.
There are plenty of ways to keep your children’s imaginations running wild. Make sure you nurture their younger years and you may have a future astronaut in your midst!
If you have any questions or simply want a nice chat, don’t hesitate to contact the My Little Duckling team, we’re here to help!