As a kid, some of my fondest memories are from crazy adventures my best friend and I used to get ourselves into. We swore the tiny brick building that was found on a hidden sidewalk between two neighborhoods was some sort of spy shelter. We visited it on occasion for weeks on end, coming up with different ideas as to what it might be. We never did figure it out, but I still think about it every time I drive by.
Then there was the time we investigated the huge footprint behind her house, certain we were on the path to discovering bigfoot. Or using the bricks and rope we found to re-create our own version of Bridge to Terabithia.
An article I read recently talked about how children with healthy imaginations typically grow up to be creative adults who can see things in new ways and find solutions to problems others might miss. They lay out some ways to help your kids spark that imagination. Not only are these good to use for my kids at home, but I definitely find that these are also good points to keep in mind when we find ourselves working on an exhibit that is primarily aimed at school-age children.
Encourage free play. Of course structure has its time and place, but some times it’s fun to grab random objects and see where their imagination takes them. They also mention choosing toys that are open-ended. Toys such as blocks, figurines and dolls all take playing to another level instead of toys that just have buttons and/or video.
Some of the other points were: tell stories, get crafty, and limit screen time. In a society where iPads rule play time and video games can be taken wherever you go, it’s so easy to forget that the best toy we have is our own imagination (and maybe a few popsicle sticks and a bottle of glue to help it along). I challenge you (and/or your kids) to spend a day without being plugged in. See where your imagination takes you!