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How to Encourage Your Child's Imagination

Updated on September 23, 2008
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Sunshine is a wife, a mother of four, a relationship expert, a journalist, a photographer, a public speaker, and an author.

I see four little girls with paper punches

Wading through the scraps of paper that make up my dining room floor, I peek around the baskets of crayons, markers, pipe cleaners, googly eyes, foam pieces, and any other art medium we can come up with. What do I find? I see four little girls hard at work with paper punches, glue, and scissors creating masterpieces straight from their imaginations. Sure, it's messy, disorganized, and everything ends up covered in glitter, but the things my children create are amazing. I strive to teach them that you can make anything you see in your imagination. There are no boundaries when it comes to imagination. If you can think it, you can create it.

I know so many moms who pour through craft books, print out pre-made pictures from the Internet, and buy those little craft kits. Sure, the things that are born from the above are beautiful, and they're creative, but they're controlled. There's less mess, more follow the dotted line, and voila, there's your pom-pom turkey! There's nothing wrong with doing those things, don't get me wrong, but how far does it stretch the imagination? I have an amazing amount of art supplies in my home. You name it, we have it. Something magical happens when not only my kids, but my daycare kids, get to dig in and create whatever they want using whatever they can find. Usually the first time, they have no idea what to do, and might draw a picture and stick a piece of foam on it, but over time, the projects that come out of their minds are amazing! Full sculptures, hats, masks, and anything else you can imagine! They not only get to exercise that imagination of theirs, they learn that if something doesn't turn out the way you want it, it's okay to start over and try it a different way. It's this thinking that promotes imagination and problem solving skills.

Another project we do is what I call Shared Stories. Everyone gets a piece of paper, and we either draw or write, depending on the age group. Each person gets five seconds to draw or write, and then everyone passes their papers to the left. It keeps going until everyone gets their original paper back, and then we either talk about our creations, or read our stories. It's amazing to see what each child contributes to the final piece.

Also, I do picture connecting. I will open a magazine and take out three random pictures that aren't connected at all. After posting them on the wall, the children get a few minutes to come up with their own story that strings the pictures together. We then share stories, and talk about them.

It's amazing how far a child's mind will stretch when you loosen up the control a little bit. The world is magic to them, and it's our job to teach them how to hold on to that for as long as they can. I've also learned that children are much less stressed out when there isn't always a specific result they are supposed to come up with. In my experience, they're more relaxed, and have a bigger sense of accomplishment when they thought something up all by themselves.


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