Perhaps the most healthy thing for a child to develop is a sense of imagination. This is not only a means in which for them to escape reality and live in a pretend world, which can be a good amount of fun, but it also helps them learn. With my son Charles, we try to get at least half the day with sensory playing. Sometimes that may be just an hour before bed depending on what we’ve been up to, but I am a big believer in sensory play to develop not only the child’s senses but also the bond with you.
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For instance, consider how young children will sit together and play with dolls or action figures. You may hear them simulating a conversation under their breath as they invent little stories for the characters to involve themselves in. On the surface, this looks like good, old-fashioned fun. But what’s happening here is actually very profound. Through their own lens, they are simulating human communication, with all of its comical aspects, and learning from that. They’re taking an active role in creating this in their own minds, and that’s a fantastic sign of development.
So how can we enliven the imagination of a young child in the healthiest possible terms? It’s worth asking these questions because these questions really do matter. Here’s how, and why that is:
Encourage Play & Join In!
Play is not something to be disregarded, but encouraged! It can also be nice to spend some time with your child playing pretend. Perhaps they will be the shopkeeper and you’ll be the customer asking them to help you with a range of different items, effectively helping them simulate a scenario they may face many, many times in their lives. Playing Doctors, or with action figures, or child-friendly board games, or even dressing up and having fun can be a great way to enjoy a lazy afternoon, and there’s almost no better way to bond with your child than this. Just remember, this is not meant to be ‘productive’ or have learning objectives. That will take care of itself.
Essential School & Study Trips
It’s very important to ensure your child is able to see the outer world from time to time, not just to grow in the best way, but also to become stronger and to adapt to the world they will one day face. But there’s more to this than personality-strengthening. For instance, school trips to the natural history museum can help pupils truly become astounded by the beauty of our natural world and the amazing fauna that has occupied our planet, or has gone extinct, for millions of years. These are not just educational experiences, but turning points in their understanding about the world. That has to be worthwhile. We recently took Charles to one of the biggest aquariums in the UK. Although he’s only 8 months, I’ve never seen him so engrossed and aware of what’s going on. Of course, the flashing lights tunnel they had taken more of his attention but even his nan has a tank full of fish that he now loves to view!
Ask Them Questions & Explore Your Environment
It can be fun to ask your children questions to help them elaborate on their ideas or think through them. For instance, if they see a butterfly and tell you it’s pretty, ask them what their favourite thing about it is. It’s techniques like this that, if carefully applied and lovingly brought to life, give them the chance to think about the world around them, and to imagine greater possibilities. This is always worthwhile. When I worked in a school for a short while we were encouraged to do this. I went on a trip with my class to Chester Zoo and I worked with my group on an activity sheet; while also asking them questions and to analyse the animals a bit more. Although they were only 4-5; it may have set them with some good upper school skills too while having fun!
With this advice, we hope you can always enliven the imagination of a young child.