Albert Einstein once said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulation progress, giving birth to evolution."
When we think of it, there are no creative human inventions without imagination. If the Wright brothers had not imagined humans flying in the air, they wouldn't have poured their lives, resources in invented the first aeroplane. Without imagination, JK Rowling might still be a struggling single mom and the world would not enjoy Harry Porter. Without imagination, there won't be Alice in Wonderland, which continually blows my mind every time I read it to my daughter. Such rich imagination and creativity!
If imagination is so important, why is it given so little emphasis in our schools? Frowned upon when a child does something uniquely different or make mistakes? The late Sir Ken Robinson once said, "if we are not prepared to be wrong, we won't be able to come out with anything original." He also argued that creativity should be regarded as important as literacy.
So, how do we encourage our children to be more creative and imaginative? Here are my three simple suggestions to cultivate the right environment for such a purpose.
Allow Room & Space
Any parents would agree that children, by nature, are very creative and imaginative.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso
We should always be conscious of this fact and try our best to cultivate the right environment for their creative expressions, instead of stifling them. Allow them room to make mistakes, be messy and have fun. Because they are most creative and imaginative when having fun. Avoid directing, teaching, correcting or any form of interference that might disrupt a child's play. As parents, our role is to facilitate and help to move the play along. We should never lead or take over. I remembered attending my daughter's school parent’s orientation day when the speaker mentioned how adults should never teach a child how to play. It was such a profound truth that took me a while to fully grasp it. In all honesty, I still need to constantly remind myself of it, lest I forget.
Spend time outdoor
I believe there is no better impetus and catalyst for imaginative thinking than the great outdoors. It's the best natural playground where children can feel, touch and interact with the surrounding objects and environment. Another good reason is to simply get our children away from screens. Of course, screen time makes our lives easier and children are happy when we opt for the digital pacifier. Some might argue that children can learn so much from digital media. But are they really? Maybe apart from some education programs, the devices mostly act as a passive entertainment outlet. Children would mimic what they watch onscreen, but it's a far cry from original creative imaginations. I believe too much screen time actually makes them dull. Studies have found that those who have more screen time have premature thinning of the brain cortex, the part of the brain responsible for interpreting information from the physical world. In fact, Insider.com reported that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs raised their kids with limited tech (Read the article here). Do they know something that we don't? Maybe it's about time we ask why? So, don't trade the long-term well-being of our children with short-term gratifications. Instead, let them enjoy the sunlight outdoor and get inspiration from the nature around them.
Creative and imaginative activities
Lastly, do some activities such as painting, drawing, handcraft that stimulate creativity and imagination. Read interesting, adventurous stories for our children and better still, tell them stories. Be intentional in how we communicate, such as use open-ended and probing questions that encourage imaginative thinking. When answering our children's questions, try to make it simpler and interesting. I found lengthy, complicated factual answers, which I'm guilty of doing quite often, make children lose interest and kill conversations.
I'll end with a quote from the late Sir Ken Robinson. "We don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it." Go and check out his insightful and at times, humorous TedTalk here.
Also, while you are here, bounce over to our shop to check out our wooden & soft toys and see how you can use them to stimulate your child's creative imagination.