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How to Enhance your Child's Imagination

Updated on March 25, 2014
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy has been working in the field of education for many years specializing in both Waldorf and Montessori methodology.

It is obvious that you would want your child to be safe, feel loved and grow up to be healthy and happy. What is less obvious is the need for your child's imagination to be allowed to grow and flourish.

The imagination which exists in each human mind is unique. By imagining what our life can be like we can make dreams for ourselves.

Benefits of a good imagination include:

  • Discovering a fulfilling path for our lives.
  • Solving problems by imagining different solutions.
  • Inventions and business concepts.
  • Empathy - Imaging how it would feel to be the other person and treating them accordingly.
  • Artistic fulfillment.
  • Creative expression through art.
  • Writing.


What things can we do to nurture and develop our child's imagination?

  • Provide open ended toys which direct the child into thinking about ways that they want to use them. Lego blocks, for example, can be made into an infinite number of things, while a fire truck will always be a fire truck. Toys with a single use do not foster the growth of imagination. (see more about toys)

  • Less is more. If a child has too many toys, this too will limit their ability to imagine the many uses of one toy. Adult intelligence tests ask questions such as "How many uses can there be for a certain object?" A person of higher intelligence will imagine many uses for the object. This kind of intelligence can be encouraged or discouraged by the child's environment.
  • Children need the time to develop their imaginations. If they are over-scheduled then they never get the opportunity to practice thinking in this way.
  • Less visual media. When a child is looking at another person's image of something clearly defined, then their mind is not forced to imagine. For example, if I describe to a child a King wearing a multi jeweled crown, long plush cape, standing in front of a large stone castle, the child's imagination needs to paint a picture based on the words I have given. If, on the other hand, the child sees an image of the same thing, the imagination shuts down. This is what visual media does. Children need to hear more and see less in terms of media.
  • Doing nothing. This may sound counter productive to an enriching environment for a child, yet doing nothing externally is another opportunity for the imaginative mind to practice thinking internally and imaginatively. Car rides without DVD's are opportunities for the child to sit and imagine.
  • Reading. A child's imagination will be greatly expanded by being read to as well. Books with fewer pictures, or none at all, are also helpful. Without pictures, and with listening to rich vocabulary, the child is learning to create images for themselves. (see more about reading)

Every parent wants the best for his or her child, but often times we think of the best in an external way such as the best nutrition or the best education. The component of imagination is one that parents should consider as well along the journey of raising a child to becoming a happy, healthy adult.

Toys that support a child's imagination

Dress up clothes, dolls, puppets, play dough (see recipe below), clay, crayons, paint, lego, blocks, magnets, cardboard boxes, tables and blankets as forts, stores, little houses etc.


Playdough Recipe

You will need:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of salt
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon cream of tartar
  • 2 cups of water
  • food coloring

Stir all ingredients in a pot over medium heat. When the dough starts to separate from the sides of the pot turn dough onto counter and knead until smooth. Keep sealed in an airtight container when not using. Enjoy!


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    • swedal profile image

      swedal 6 years ago from Colorado

      A beautiful hub Tracy. I love all the tips to encouraging a child to spread their wings. Thank you for writing it!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you Swedal, I like the way phrased that! Yes, I wish for all children to have the opportunity to soar.

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

      voted up and useful, tracy. very true about the visual stimulation...it can cloud a child's imagination...reading is the best tool, i believe. also limiting the amount of toys i has found really helps with my daughter's pretend time. :) good job!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you so much Kitty! I think that your daughter's imagination is in good hands with you to guide her.

    • andromida profile image

      syras mamun 6 years ago

      I have no clear conception how visual media affect a child's imagination process.You shared some very realistic points.I've tweeted your hub.Thanks.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      I am glad that I gave you some insight into the way visual media can affect a child's imagination. Thank you so much for sharing my hub!

    • celeBritys4africA profile image

      celeBritys4africA 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I like your hub, I tweeted.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      celeBritys4africA, Thank you so much for the compliment and the tweet!

    • profile image

      Qbrown9 6 years ago

      I like the do nothing. Kids are overloaded today with formal activites, play dates, and way too busy moving from one task to another. Adults are always in the scenario. Kids need time to themselves. Great Hub.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you so much Qbrown! Yes, making time to 'do nothing' helps to keep busy lives balanced for kids and adults.

    • Anthea Carson profile image

      Anthea Carson 6 years ago from Colorado Springs

      Very helpful hub. I was thinking about getting rid of some of the toys because there are so many and it's cluttery. But I was hesitant to throw away her toys. So I was particularly interested in your capsul "less is more." I don't think I've ever heard this idea before. Thanks, and voted up.

    • Ronnie_Dey profile image

      Ronnie_Dey 6 years ago from West Bengal, India

      Beautiful thoughts put together...Great work!! Children should always be kept in the world of fairy tales..They deserved it..They are God's angels. Voted up your hub

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Anthea,

      I am glad this was helpful to you. It IS hard to eliminate toys, but having just what is needed has a value. I learned the importance of eliminating unnecessary toys when I studied the Waldorf method of education. Thank you!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
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      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Ronnie Dey,

      You are right, children should experience this glorious time of life! It is a gift that all children deserve to receive. Thank you for your vote and kind comments!

    • profile image

      Fabulosokids Bruce 6 years ago

      Great article--confirmed something that I had long imagined--that less is more. Less bulk of toys, less interactive (on the toy's part) less NOISY! I remember being a kid and using rocks and sticks as toys because it was easier than going back to the house. Whole herds of us would play all day with whatever we could find. We imagined nearly everything that we did, based perhaps on one toy that one of us had had the forethouht to carry out of the house. It was magical and occupied us for hours. Thanks for reminding me, and confirming what I have long assumed with our own kids.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 6 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Fabulouskids Bruce, yes, less IS more. It is funny that you mention noisy toys. Just yesterday when my son couldn't find any batteries for a noise making dinosaur that we have (the batteries died a few years ago) my older daughter suggested that my son make his own sounds. I always enjoy listening to wisdom shared between kids.

      Your childhood sounds idyllic and really hits at the core of my article, I really enjoyed reading your description. This imaginative play is the most fun and sustaining kind of play. Thank you so much!

    • glassvisage profile image

      glassvisage 5 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks so much for this Hub - I couldn't agree more on why imagination is important and your tips for encouraging it. My brother and I were lucky because we would always play outside and all we had was nature - we would make mud pies, make communities out of bugs and other critters, go "exploring" around the creek... I wouldn't trade it for anything :)

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      @Glassvisage- I am so glad you mentioned outside play involving nature, as this is another excellent way that children can develop their imagination. Experiences like the one you describe offer so much for children on so many levels. Your description is great! Thank you.

    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 5 years ago from UK

      A lovely, well written and very useful hub. You are so right that children don't need a lot of expensive toys to learn and that in fact, too many toys can prohibit creativity. My young daughter has many toys as she has inheritied older siblings and cousins old collections. However, we have far too many now and this article has spurred me on to have a clear out. I totally agree with you too on having less media available to children. We had TV free days when my teenage children were young. They would always turn to books for enjoyment and they are now both avid readers. An excellent hub! Voted up and useful.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      @Maggie.L - Yes, minimizing media is one of the most powerful and simplest ways to get a child to tap into their imagination. Clearing out all but the most used toys also seems to get the child playing in a new ways, partly since their environment is clear of distracting clutter.

      That is great that your children are avid readers due to your conscientious parenting. I am so glad that you enjoyed my hub, thank you!

    • markwade71 profile image

      markwade71 5 years ago

      When my children are not in school, I have periods of time I call " Blackout". We turn off all electronic items (to include my cell phone) and we read.

      Now that my boys are in the Fifth grade, they are reading a wide variety of books. I have found that not only have their imaginations have blossemed, but mine as well! We will creat stories with many twists and turns. Blackout has been a great addition to our family time.

      Thank you for the information. It will be a big help the next time we have a "Blackout".

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Hi Markwade71 and welcome to hubpages!

      The "blackout" idea sounds great! Ironically, the mental light bulbs go on during this time when the media is off. I love to hear of positive parenting in action. I too have learned and grown from my children's expanding imaginations, especially in the absence of electronic devices. Hearing your story is inspirational, thank you!

    • Ciel Clark profile image

      Ciel Clark 5 years ago from USA

      Love your ideas and totally agree that less is more. A couple of weeks ago I cleaned out my almost two year old's playroom, leaving his little table and two small baskets--one of books and one of balls. Now I put one or two other toys on his table and change them every few days. He is more interested and concentrated than when there is too much of a choice. And yes, being bored is okay and important.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 5 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Ciel,

      So glad to see you here!

      When I first heard the advice about using a minimal amount of toys I was a little shocked but it didn't take me long to see the light. Seeing this concept in action is the best proof of this minimalist philosophy. My kids are often happiest on trips when they have the least amount of toys but rather a large dose of curiosity. Glad to hear you agree with allowing kids to be bored as well, this also makes so much sense when you think of it, it is almost meditative. Sounds like your son is in very good hands.

      Best, Tracy

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Tracy, very interesting hub. And you're right about all of the different ways it is possible to tap into a child's imagination. I like you're 'do nothing' element - it is amazing how they will find out things for themselves and how they go looking for things to keep their brains busy.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Jools99 - It is amazing, doing nothing acts as a kind of key to unlock the creativity that is simply sitting and waiting to be set free. With an over scheduled and media filled day that is so common of children today, there can be no time for this kind of exploration. Thank you for your great comment!

      Best, Tracy

    • Dan Barfield profile image

      Dan Barfield 4 years ago from Gloucestershire, England, UK

      Great advice - having taught at primary school level myself I can fully attest to the need to teach or train children (and adults if it was missed when they were at school!) in how to use their imaginations. The benefits are enormous!

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 4 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Dan - The benefits of a great imagination are enormous and sadly the environment for many children today does not cultivate this. Historically, childhood was filled with opportunities to explore one's imagination, it was a given, now it is something that parents and educators have to consider and work at. I hope it is not too late for some adults to revisit this developmental stage.

      Best, Tracy

    • Loreal Harris profile image

      Loreal Harris 2 years ago from Crown Point, Indiana

      Very good Ms. Conway :) Very beneficial.

    • Tracy Lynn Conway profile image
      Author

      Tracy Lynn Conway 2 years ago from Virginia, USA

      Thank you, Loreal!

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