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June 04, 2008

Why encouraging imagination is important - sent by a mother

Why encouraging imagination is important? from www.babycenter.com
An active imagination helps your preschooler in more ways than you might think.Improving vocabulary. Children who play imaginary games or listen to lots of fairy tales, stories read aloud from books, or tales spun by those around them tend to have noticeably better vocabularies.
Taking control.
Pretending lets your preschooler be anyone she wants, practice things she's learned, and make situations turn out the way she wants. Stories where the brave little girl thwarts the evil witch or playacted fantasies of being the one to rescue all those kittens from that sinking ship give her a sense that she can be powerful and in control even in unfamiliar or scary situations.
Learning social rules. Getting along socially can be tricky at any age. When your preschooler joins the other kids in the sandbox to create a castle out of sand, sticks, and leaves, she's not only exploring a fantasy world, she's learning complex, real-world rules about sharing, social interaction, and resolving conflicts.
Solving problems.
Dreaming up imaginary situations teaches your child to think creatively in real life. A study at Case Western Reserve University found that young children who are imaginative tend to remain so as they get older and to become better problem solvers. Tested later in life, early "imaginators" were more resourceful when it came to coping with challenges and difficult situations, such as what to do if they forgot to bring a book to school they needed that day.
What you can do to spark your preschooler's imaginationRead books.
Reading stories together about unfamiliar lands and people is a good way to fuel your child's fantasy life, and books that expand her vocabulary of words and images will help, too. (How can you imagine sailing a pirate ship if you've never seen one?) With storybooks, she can explore visual details, make up stories, and "read" to herself. If you're reading the text, stop often to explore the pictures and talk about what's happening: "Imagine how Annie must have felt when she lost her sister's ring!" Encourage your preschooler to make up her own endings to the stories you read. Read about the world, show her pictures of everything from beetles to pinwheels, and explore in further detail those things that interest her most.Share stories. Telling your own made-up stories is just as good for your child's imagination as reading a book together. Not only will your tales provide a sense of possibilities for his inventive thinking, they'll demonstrate the basics of creating characters and plots. And using your child as the main character is a great way to expand her sense of self.Before long, your preschooler will offer her own narratives and adventures. In fact, because her understanding of the difference between reality and fantasy is still limited, she may occasionally make up a wild story she fully expects everyone to believe. Play along and enjoy her creativity — as long as it's all in good fun. If your child is frightening herself with a scary tale (e.g., there's a monster in her closet), put on the brakes and clarify what's real and what's not.Another idea: Trade off lines of a story. While you're driving, say to her, "Once upon a time there was a dog. She lived with a little girl, and they liked to go to the park. One day..." Then give your child a turn. Let her tell the fun parts, like naming the girl and the dog and describing the climax and the ending.Relish her artwork. For most preschoolers, exploration of materials is the most important aspect of making art. So as she works with the supplies you've given her — water, clay, sand, dough, paints, papers, buttons, ribbons — respect the process. For her, a piece of cardboard glued onto some colored paper is a good enough result. She doesn't want or need to hear that her finished puppet "should look like this."Even "pictures" at this point will be largely lines and shapes on the page, though by age 4 many kids start dabbling in representational drawing. When your preschooler draws a picture, rather than trying to guess what it is (unless she's a budding Rembrandt, chances are you'll guess wrong anyway), ask her to interpret it for you. Instead of "What a beautiful house!" say, "What cool colors you've used! What's happening in this picture?"Make music.Although your child probably isn't ready for structured piano lessons, you can still fill her world with music. Listen to a variety of tunes together, and encourage her to participate by singing, dancing, or playing homemade or toy instruments. She can follow along with a song being played, or make up her own, complete with lyrics. (Be sure to have a video or audio recorder on hand!)Encourage pretend play. Children learn a lot from dramatizing events from their daily — and fantasy — lives. When your preschooler invents a scenario and plot line and peoples it with characters ("I'm the mommy and you're the baby and you're sick"), she develops social and verbal skills. She'll work out emotional issues as she replays scenarios that involve feeling sad, happy, frightened, or safe. Imagining herself as a superhero, a horse, or a wizard makes her feel powerful and gives her a sense of what it's like to be in charge. And she develops her understanding of cause and effect as she imagines how you or her friend or her cat would behave in a particular situation. She's also exploring the world of discipline, since she's making the rules, either by herself or with the help of a playmate (the array of intricate rules kids come up with always astounds adults).Provide props. Towels become turbans, plastic bracelets become precious jewels, old bathroom rugs turn into magic carpets, and that moth-eaten collection of stuffed animals transforms itself into a rain forest, animal hospital, or farm. Because preschoolers love to take on the role of someone else — a parent, a baby, a pet — a simple object like a toy cash register or a chalkboard can be all that's needed to spark creative play. Since most of the action takes place inside your child's head, the best props are often generic, and detailed costumes modeled after specific cartoon characters or action figures aren't really the ticket here.Providing a special box or trunk to hold pretending paraphernalia can make fantasy play even more of an adventure, especially if you occasionally restock when your child's not looking ("Let's see what's in the trunk today!"). Including more than one of the same item can help, too, since two pirates or princesses are always better than one.Use the computer judiciously. Just because tech companies are churning out software for kids doesn't mean your child will turn out computer-illiterate if she doesn't do daily computer time. Still, there are some quality programs for preschoolers that can spark your child's imagination, from drawing, painting, and music software to virtual treasure hunts. And the Internet can be an invaluable resource for looking up topics of interest — hunting down the latest photos of Jupiter or colorful pictures of a coral reef — and for exposing your child to different cultures and ideas from around the world.Limit TV time. When it comes to your child's TV viewing, less is better. There are some excellent programs out there that teach kids, say, how a baby kangaroo behaves or how other kids their age live in Japan, and you can record shows to provide quality programming at convenient times. But don't overdo it.Movies and TV shows tend to limit a budding imagination since they do the visualizing for your child, says Michael Meyerhoff, executive director of Epicenter, a parenting information center in Illinois. If your child does watch TV, keep it to less than an hour a day. Resist the temptation to use it as an electronic babysitter; instead, sit and watch along with her, posing questions, expanding on ideas presented in the show or movie, and finding out what strikes her as most interesting.

How to live with your preschooler's imaginationSet limits.
Creating and enforcing rules — no hitting with the "sword" — is crucial for everyone's sake. But if you can, let your child live for a bit with the reminders of her flights of fancy. The fact that the dining room table isn't available for dinner because it's currently serving as an igloo gives you the perfect excuse to have a "picnic" on the living room floor.Accept her imaginary friend. Experts believe that having an imaginary friend is a sign of a creative, social child who's found a way to help manage her own fears or concerns. Some studies suggest as many as half of kids have an imaginary pal at some point.However, if your child starts blaming the buddy for something she did, it's time for a reality check. You don't need to accuse her of lying, but do address the behavior. Have your child, along with the imaginary sidekick, rectify the situation (clean up the mess, apologize, etc.) and make it clear the act was unacceptable.Keep messes manageable. Yes, reenacting the story of Hansel and Gretel might lead to a trail of crumbs through the living room. If you have the space, it's a good idea to designate a room, or part of a room, as an arts and crafts corner, where your child is free to create without worrying about making a mess.Some containment strategies can also help: Old button-down shirts make great smocks when worn backwards with the sleeves cut off, plastic sheeting under the Play-Doh construction site can protect the rug, and large sheets of butcher paper over the crafts table can prevent an encrusted layer of multicolored paints or glue.Enjoy the offbeat. When your child wants to wear her space commander outfit to preschool for the third day in a row, it's tempting to say no. Adults are socialized to draw strict lines between "public" and "private" behavior — your funky gray sweatpants and rabbit slippers are fine around the house, but not at a restaurant — and it's hard to realize children don't think that way. But if you find yourself forcing a confrontation ("Take off your Halloween costume now"), remember that your preschooler doesn't recognize these boundaries yet, and consider letting it go. In the grand scheme of things, a kid in a kooky outfit may not be worth worrying about.

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