" The Times Dispatch - Viewpoints

August 6, 2014 Edition

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Help children
develop
imagination

Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." It's a pretty amazing statement when you consider just how much knowledge Einstein possessed. Today's world needs creative, imaginative people. Encouraging children to open their minds to possibilities now will help provide Einsteins for the future.

Here are some fun, innovative ideas that can foster imagination while creating enjoyable, long-lasting memories along the way.

Encourage children to pretend to be any character they want to be. Let them create a costume based on how they imagine their character looks or let the costume create the character. The costume can be as simple as a mask and towel cape or as lavish as the closet can provide. The important thing is that the child creates a character that allows for exploration of new ideas and directions using his imagination. Join the fun and dress up, too. This production needs a supporting cast.

Travel with them to imaginary worlds inhabited by creatures they create. Let them describe what they look like and how they act. Don't be afraid to enter the world with them or to contribute to its creation. It's an opportunity to play together and help them learn about exploring possibilities and also about make-believe versus reality.

Encourage children to read. Reading with children is a great way to strengthen their love of books and reading comprehension skills. Teach them to use the library and choose books to read on their own. If the child has not learned to read yet; read to them. Make reading more interactive by letting the child guess what will happen next before flipping the page. Their answer may be surprising.

Art is another way to allow a child to develop their imagination. Put together a space where they can create their masterpieces without worrying about making a mess. Provide them with the tools they need like paints, crayons, markers and a big roll of paper to serve as their canvas. Spread the area with newspaper because even the most careful little artists will make a mess from time to time.

Exploring the outdoors is another excellent way to let a child's imagination turn a trip to the park into an adventure. Summer vacation is the perfect opportunity for nature hikes, camping trips or exploring archeological sites. Turn the trip into an adventure by letting the child explore for evidence of past human and nonhuman inhabitants. Let them describe what kind of beings might have lived there and what they did to take care of themselves.

No matter which path imagination takes enjoying the trip is what's most important.

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