Imagination is more important than knowledge.
I found the quote is from Albert Einstein. While I understand what he’s saying, this quote doesn’t quite ring true with me. For without knowledge there would be no imagination. Yes, intuition, creativity and imagination are what leads to bigger and better things whereas knowledge is static and fixed. But I believe you can’t create or imagine with nothing – no knowledge of the world around, how things work and the stories already told. Don’t dismiss the importance of knowledge in developing our imagination.
Last week I gave my kids creative play time in the classroom. There was no structure, no end goal, just time of using the resources available to them to entertain themselves and shock, horror – NO COMPUTERS! I found this time really valuable as I observed their social interactions, problem solving skills and creativity. I went around to each pocket of kids to see what they were up to and talked to them about what they were playing.
Master M, however, was wandering around aimlessly, and when I spoke to him he would complain of being bored and having nothing to do. Master M, I know for a fact, spends pretty much every spare minute of his time on a computer. I’m a gamer myself, I love playing computer games and don’t have a problem with kids playing (age appropriate) games but not as the only activity to engage in. It stifles a child’s creative, problem solving, emotional, social and intellectual development. Even kids who aren’t playing computers all the time but are ferried from one structured activity to the next are at risk of losing their creativity. Kids need unstructured time to learn how to entertain themselves, problem solve and imagine.
How do we foster a child’s imagination?
Read, read, read!
Yes folks, I know you’re not surprised by me saying this - it comes back to books! Reading is a huge part of developing an imagination. Kids need to read, read, read! There are so many benefits from doing so. In terms of imagination it shows kids worlds, characters, scenarios, time periods, solutions that they wouldn’t have otherwise be exposed to. Think of the Harry Potter series, Rowling drew on her knowledge of a lot of myths, legends and other information of the real world to create the magical world of Hogwarts. It didn’t come from nothing. She used what she knew, her knowledge, to imagine a new world and we are ever so thankful for it.
Provide the tools
Provide ‘open-ended’ toys, that is toys that can be used in a number of different ways. Lego, blocks, playdough, doll’s houses, dress up boxes are examples of this. You can even provide open ended options in art activities. Set out paper, two colours of paint, one other medium and a brush and let the kids create and play. Mrs B, my teacher buddy, has been doing this with our class. It’s simple but gives the kids a chance to explore.
Show them how to play and use their imagination. Play with the kids! Last week as the boys were engaged in their intense battle between the Lego-men and The Teddies, I took my water spray, turned it to jet, and ‘shot’ Master J. He clasped his hand to the wound, fell over and called out, “Man down!”. By the time Master S had cottoned on to what was happening, I got him in the chest. He fell to the ground but then rose again in a rather Matrix-like fashion saying he had one bar of health left and then he got me. Hmpf! Next time boys!
Yesterday, my boys came charging down the grass in an ambush of the evil robot (me on playground duty) with their very cleverly made paper guns. Master S very kindly gave me a gun to defend myself but I’m afraid, once again, they got me. To be fair, I was outnumbered.
The best play comes when you can make the biggest mess. Of course they need to help you clean up after but let it happen to begin with. Life is messy, kids are messy, play is messy. Get used to it. Embrace it, get in it, enjoy it. It’s fun!
Listen & encourage
We have a collection of ‘fossils’ in our classroom. Now I know that us educated adults know they are just plain rocks (I think…), I still play along with it. We talk about what the fossil could be and what have it looked like. Yesterday a Kindy girl found a dinosaur bone. After I got over my ‘ew gross, wash your hands’ phase I played along with it (and then ordered her to wash her hands). When a kid comes to you with a made up scenario, either listen to them or join in!
And I’m going to say it again because I can not emphasis it strongly enough -