The ignored learning is imagination, and indeed, many parents can’t help that feel their children playing “pretend” is just a silly way to pass the time and produces no real benefit. The truth is that creativity is an essential skill in the adult world and in childhood, fostering creativity produces substantial benefits.
Here are 4 ways exercising imagination is great for a child.
1. Develop Problem-solving Skills
When it comes down to it, creativity is all about problem-solving. First, the children get their minds working to solve the problem of what to create, even if this seems natural to a child, and in this act of creation they come up with new problems for their mind. It’s like they are building their own exercises in an instant–mind exercises–and then they come up with fast ways to deal with those problems and keep going with their game of pretend. Change the rules of a child’s reality for them in the middle of their play, and watch how fast their mind comes up with a solution that somehow “fits” those new rules.
2. Improve Vocabulary
Exercising the imagination leads to improved vocabulary, studies show. When developing more complex speech, we need more sensory input–in other words, we need to have of a world to communicate about and name if we are to have words for it. A child cannot get all of that in their own span of time–a lot of it must be imagined. And playing games, essentially building their own worlds out of nothing, gives them an ever-expanding world, where they find more things to talk about, requiring them to learn more words.
3. Creativity Later in Life
It has been shown that building creative skills in childhood leads to a more creative adult life. Many children who seem to have especially strong imaginations go on to be the best creators. And as creativity is really problem solving, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be artists. Who needs more imagination than an engineer? Then a scientist? Then a doctor who must figure out what is ailing their patient when nothing else makes sense?
4. Learn Real World Skills
These games of pretend are a time for children to learn real world skills. They practice cooking. They practice parenting. They practice being the shopkeeper or standing up to opposition in a game of good cop/ bad cop. And if you watch the detail at which they tackles these roles or challenges, you can see that what they are really doing is preparing for life.
5. They Learn Better
When a teacher or parent introduces imagination into everyday lessons, they make it much easier to learn. A math lesson, for instance, is more effective if the teacher can get the student to put themselves into a fun, real-world situation where the skill would be needed to solve a practical solution. And because it is more fun, kids will get more engaged, and the lesson will be more effective. And this applies to just about any kind of learning–or even to everyday situations, such as getting kids to eat, brush their teeth, or go to bed on time.
So, as you can see, imagination is a highly productive energy for a child, and one that can be harnessed in a lot of ways. It’s all about recognizing it’s value and then finding ways to put it to use.