Ever since Annika could talk, she's been coming up with hilarious thoughts and one-liners that have my facebook friends in stitches. She is full of quirky opinions and ideas and certainly has a mind of her own. After we launched her "How to" series last year, she was deemed Cheezburger's Kickass Kid of the Day and I'd have to agree that she is, well...that!
So while I don't claim to be an expert on parenting by any means, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of the parenting lessons I've learned along the way that seem to foster her creativity and personality.
So, here it is:
7 Ways to Inspire Imagination in your kiddos.
1. Don't be afraid of occasional alone/quiet time. Help your child to be comfortable with slow-moving afternoons where there are no plans, no projects and no distractions. Boredom can be a blessing! This is when their mind is free to wander and explore and create.
2. Create opportunities for creative play. Instead of electronic toys that do most of the work to entertain, opt for toys/games that require your child to think for themselves. Simple kitchen sets, blocks, puzzles, dolls, etc. This kind of low stimulation, self-led play helps to flex the "imaginative muscle" and the more often it's exercised, the stronger the muscle gets.
3. Spend time outdoors. Creation is God's playground! It is full of wonder and beauty and made for our enjoyment. Being outside is a multi-layered sensory experience that excites and inspires children towards creative play. There are interesting scents carried in on the breeze, sunshine on the skin, sticks and grass to feel in your hands, the sounds of birds or cars or neighbors. Their minds (and bodies) can move as quickly or as slowly as they like.
4. Join the play yourself. Like anything else, we can nurture imagination in our kids when we model it for them. Lead by example. Get on the floor, enter their world, introduce them to the endless world of their own imagination. Watch them delight as you show them how to throw a tea party or how to build and destroy a castle made of blocks. And later, follow their lead and let them guide you through their own games.
5. Read - a lot. Indulge in a fantasy world with them. Not only does this allow for sweet times of closeness, but it fosters a love of reading and stories in your child. Read the books how they are meant to be heard, with character voices and sound effects and anything else that makes the story feel real and exciting to them. When you can graduate to chapter books, talk about the characters and story-line throughout the day so that the story is fresh when you come back to it.
6. Embrace the "maybe." Make-believe is all about pretending on purpose, so you can let go of worrying about truth and lies. Let there be a gray area in between fact and fiction where they can feel the spark of mystery and leave room for the impossible. Adjust your language to theirs, respond with enthusiasm, talk about pretend things in a comfortable and playful way.
7. Separate truth from make-believe. This seems to contradict #6 but it is actually the most important part of allowing a full freedom of imagination. Make-believe is something that lives only with, and not without, our imagination; Truth is something that exists whether we believe it or not. In make-believe, our imagination makes anything possible and things move and change and grow and die based on what we believe at the time. But truth is absolute. When we define the difference between true things and make-believe things, we protect our most worthy beliefs from being "outgrown with age" while still allowing imagination to be free and unrestricted. Separate truth from make-believe, and then play your heart out!