As a parent, there’s a lot we want for our children. We want them to be happy, healthy, and educated. We want them to build long-lasting friendships and relationships, and we want them to know they’re loved and cared for. We want them to have fun, develop a healthy lifestyle, and find their passions. We think about these wants day in and day out, but how do we help our kids get to that point?
That’s a broad, ever-changing question, and the answer differs for every parent and every child. But one thing we’ve found, along with many other parents, researchers, and educators, is that a steadfast imagination is a big aspect that affects all those “wants.”
Imagination fosters cognitive and social development. It helps kids problem-solve and encourages enthusiasm, fun, and happiness. Imagination helps children understand the world around them in a way that the classroom can’t, which is why so many people have found that leaning into imagination is essential to child development.
That said, some kids aren’t as imaginative as others. Some kids abandon imaginative play earlier than others. But that doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, and that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to spur another imaginative cycle. Below you’ll find some of the top ways to nurture a child’s imagination. Check it out and see how a vibrant imagination will help your child reach your “wants!”
Encourage Active Activities
We know that not every child wants to spend all day, every day running around and playing sports. That’s not the sort of activity we’re talking about. Rather, we’re talking about active activities as opposed to passive play, such as watching TV or playing video games.
Think about imagination as a muscle. If not exercised and used actively, it will fade. When children come up with their own ideas, games, thoughts, and images, they’re actively building their imagination muscles. It’s time to put a limit on screen time!
Let Them Make Choices
Whenever it’s safe, let your children think and make choices for themselves. Even small choices like which cup they want to drink out of or what clothes they want to wear can help children feel like they’re more in control of their life. How does this relate to imagination?
When you give children the opportunity to make choices, they see all the possible outcomes they could have. When you give them the choice of princess or dragon, stripes or solids, outdoor play or indoor scavenger hunt, they grow more confident in their imaginative abilities.
Delve Into Creative Projects
This follows along with the idea of encouraging active activities. Creativity and imagination go hand in hand, and that means when you help your child delve into creative projects, imagination improves. Various studies have found that children who participate in creative play with their parents develop broader vocabularies and more flexible thinking skills.
Therefore, the desire many parents have for a smart and healthy child can partly be accomplished when creative projects are at the forefront. Here are a few ideas:
- Create with finger-paint
- Play dress-up
- Head to the playground
- Write stories together
Music is so powerful when it comes to spurring imagination and creativity. Even if it may not sound like the most beautiful music, making noise can help children feel uninhibited. Though we often tell children to quiet down, this can impair their imagination muscle, so it’s time to embrace the loud.
According to a blog by Huffington Post, “music can help stimulate our imagination...can shift our mood, create images in our mind, impact our limbic brain, and open us up to new ideas.” Listening to music throughout the day, learning about musicians, trying new instruments, and singing along to songs can all help encourage imagination and creativity in children and adults alike!
Praise the Process
One of the most important ways to nurture a child’s imagination involves simply praising their process. A lot of people get tied up in the results or the final product, but that can end up frustrating children. If their painting doesn’t look the way they want it to, they may not want to paint again. That’s where you come in, praising the process and the choices they make.
Show them that the colors they chose were beautiful or that their brush strokes added more depth to the piece. The process and imaginative choices within that process can help children feel more confident and less likely to never try again. Focusing too heavily on results can distract from the imaginative choices children make.
Don’t Force It
If your kids aren’t feeling creative one day, don’t force it. When parents force imagination, they can end up stunting creative growth. If your kids don’t want to paint, play the piano, or write their story, don’t force them! Remember to allow for downtime—unstructured, unscheduled free time will allow kids the opportunity to get creative if they want to.
Go Deeper Into Story Telling
We know we just said that free play is great, but mature play can be even more beneficial. Think of mature play as storytelling or role-playing. Offer a scenario to your child and work together to build a new world and craft a unique story. Maybe you’re both horses—from there, you can make up names together and give the horses quirky hobbies. After you’ve worked together to build the world, let your child drift off into their own universe of imaginative play. Any sort of story-building that you can work on with your child will help build their imagination and their creative confidence.
Give Them a Safe Space
Our last tip is where the California Beach Co. really comes into play—you really have to design a space that makes your child feel safe enough to delve into their creativity and imagination. If your children don’t feel safe and free from judgment, they won’t delve into their creativity in the same way they normally would. Whether you build them a treehouse in the backyard or encourage them to use their playpen with canopy inside, these areas give them a space to feel comfortable enough to let loose.
As we said, the California Beach Company is the place to turn when you need to create a safe space for your child to nurture their imagination. Use the playpen inside, take it outside, and bring it with you on the go. It’s the product that works with you and for you!