September 23, 2008
The Critical Role of Imagination in Childhood Development by Dr. Caron B. Goode, PhD
Here is the final chapter of this interesting article on Childhood Develpment….
Another area of concern is the loss of unstructured time that allows children to engage in imaginative play. From soccer and baseball games to piano and karate lessons, children today have far less time than past generations to let their imaginations run free. And while leagues and lessons offer many benefits to children, the fact is that when kids are engaged in structured activities, they are being regulated by the adults in their lives and not themselves.
Scientists have noted that the more structured the level of play, the more children’s private speech and self-dialog decline. By striving to structure most or all of a child’s free time, kids of today have far less time available for imaginative play (which requires they police themselves.
Compound this with the dearth of electronic devices that serve not to expand children’s minds but to numb them, and you can see why children today have fallen behind in their abilities to self-regulate.
Studies have shown that good self-regulation skills are a better predictor of success in school and life than a child’s IQ. Children that master good executive function will be able to control their own behavior, manage their feelings, and keep themselves on task – all elements that contribute to educational and cognitive development and success.
- Limit television viewing and time spent playing computer or electronic games
- Schedule time for imaginative play, just as you would schedule time for piano lessons or soccer practice. (You don’t need to tell your child you’re doing this, as you then impose structure.)
- Encourage interaction between peers by letting your child have friends over or go to a friend’s house.
- Peer interaction often drives the imaginative process, and develops children’s social, language and problem-solving abilities.
- While play dates are all the rage, make sure that you or other parents allow children to interact together at their own level and pace, instead of dictating for them how the play date unfolds.
- Parents can also interact with children in a variety of ways that let children master creativity through the use of imagination. These include:
- Creating stories together, where you each take turns adding a thread to the tale. You can start the process by finding an everyday object and verbalizing a sentence or two about it to create a scenario. Then, let your child take over and embellish the tale from there. As you go back and forth adding to the story, you’ll stimulate and challenge both of your imaginations.
- Provide tools for make believe. Have objects like pots and pans with spoons, and building blocks and craft supplies on hand that you keep in the “Imagination Drawer.” Then, make sure to direct your child to the magic drawer when she says, “I’m bored.”
- Play the “Imagine If” game. Whether you’re in your garden or driving along in the car, look for objects and then start conversations with, “Imagine if …” – i.e., “Imagine if roses were blue,” or “Imagine if birds swam and fish flew.” This helps children hone their visual processing and cognitive skills, as well as opening them up to seeing the world in new ways.
Check back next week for another great article from Koach Karl and learn more about the great sport of soccer.