It's October and we're all turning our attention to costume-making (or hunting) and pretend play. Why is it that children are so excited about Halloween? Why do children love pretend play and more importantly, how should we as parents relate to this excitement? Is encouraging the imagination important to young children and if so, why?
To find out more about the crucial role of imagination in childhood, we created an all-new Imagination section. Since reading these thought-provoking pieces, I have a new respect for daydreams, for free time in which to do nothing, for the freedom to let the imagination - perhaps our most powerful mental tool - roam.
Our world is becoming faster paced and more frenetic every day and our kids are being swept up in the current. School, homework, piano lessons, judo, art classes, TV, computer games, the internet. It sometimes seems like every minute of their waking time is taken up with an activity. Climbing trees, playing hopscotch and tag or just gazing into the middle distance and letting the imagination create seem to be in danger of becoming extinct.
Great thinkers have always known about the importance of imagination:
"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night."
- Edgar Allan Poe
"You see things and you say Why? But I dream things that never were and I say, why not?"
- George Bernhard Shaw
"I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge - that myth is more potent than history. I believe that dreams are more powerful than facts."
- Robert Fulghum
"You can't depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus."
- Mark Twain
In Nurturing Imagination, Sherri Mandell interviews a number of experts who explain how valuable imagination is: from enabling kids to be better problem-solvers to more effectively handling their own difficult feelings to better handling stress. Click on that same piece to read the sidebar Zombie Children about the effect of TV on imagination.
Our Early Childhood specialist Esther Wolfson, tells us about the critical importance of imagination for young children in Imagination: Childhood's Natural Gift and in Imagination: Your Child's Window to the World. Wolfson coins a phrase, "imagination skills" - which we hope will convince parents that imagination is as necessary a tool for future success and happiness as academic skills. Click on the same page to get ideas about activities you can do with or set up for your young child that will encourage her to use her imagination.
One mother wrote to us concerned about her daughter's imaginary playmates. Psychologist Naomi Baum reassures her by pointing out that "studies have shown that children who have imaginary playmates tend to be more creative and intelligent than average." To read more, click on Imaginary Playmate.
To explore a mother and father's differing attitudes towards their dreamy children, and to read an expert's comment's on their dilemma, go to Why are they Always Just Sitting There? A Drama.
Finally Cary Jacoby shares with us the lessons she learned about the value of boredom in Mommy, I'm Bored.
We hope these pieces will prod you to remember what you already know: Our children's imaginations are precious. Let's not lose them in the shuffle.
Copyright Ruth Mason, 2000