Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cultivating a Bountiful Imagination

Read the previous post,


Cultivating an imagination in our kids requires an imagination on our part. We sweat  and ache while we cultivate, but we must imagine a future bountiful harvest.

The kid who uses all your extra sheets to  built forts may someday  be designing buildings.

The kid who scribbled on every scrap of paper, your walls, your floors and in every book, may be selling those scribbles as an artist.

Or, their childhood ambitions and creations may not have any other impact than providing wonderful memories.

That's enough for me.

Somedays require more imagination than others to cultivate an imagination in our kids.

Some of us Type-A women so desperately love a clean and orderly home, it's hard to give liberty to  the children to make a creative mess.  Messes are necessary to learning.  I teach my children to pick up after themselves and  have worn myself out reminding my children to not leave a trail in their work and play. But, there are times we have to relax the rubber bands and just let them make a mess.

Instead of walking into a trashed bedroom or playroom and being angry, begin asking what they were doing.  Let them explain the world they made, then, go on with the gentle admonition to clean.  Our response to their creative mess can stifle their imagination.

There is a difference between "naughty" mess and "creative" mess.  Naughty is not putting away clean clothes, or making bed when asked.  Creative mess is from playing.  That's not naughty.  Playing is a child's job.

Cultivate an Imagination
Like You Would a Garden

1.  Hire the Laborers. 

Mom, you're hired.  You're an integral part of the process. 

(Inspiration from the Imagine Children's Museum, Everett, WA)

I learned early in parenting, it's really easy to forget why you're home. Cleaning, cooking, laundry and errands demand necessary attention, and guilt usually comes with relaxation.  Remind yourself you're home for the KIDS not the HOUSE!  Enjoy playing with your kids. 

Every parent in different in what they want to do in participating with their children.  I don't like reading  out loud.  It pains me.  I surround my kids with books, allow them time to read, and have forced myself to read to them because it's the right thing to do.

Make a fort in the family room and crawl in with books and snacks?  I'm all over it.  Set up a house for all the Strawberry Shortcake dolls?  I'm in.  A tea party on the deck?  I'll be there. 

Encourage the siblings to be compatible co-laborers in the work of cultivating an imagination. Seek activities that will involve the various ages and genders of your children.  Teach them to play together.

2Break up the soil of normalcy and conformity.

Have you ever seen the pull start on an older cultivator?  You prime and crank, prime and crank, and before you know it, the engine is roaring and the hardened soil is being broken into clods. 

All my kids love character toys, but it can be more challenging to stimulate creative play.  Flying Buzz Lightyear through the air and yelling "To Infinity and Beyond" quickly becomes boring, so he might get buried in the finite bottom of the toybox.

A few suggestions for adventures, rescues, conflicts or travels with their favorite toys can pull start their play.

What can you make for that character?  A new cape?  A bed or sleeping bags?  Food from clay or felt?  How can you embellish the world of their cherished character?

Let them figure out things on their own. In other words, allow them to make mistakes. Sometimes, they can come up with a better way, a better idea.

Look for "Oh, that's how it's done" moments in the world around you. We have stopped the car to let the kids watch simple things like:

1. concrete being poured to make a sidewalk
2. roof being put on a house with a crane
3. cars unloaded from a semi

We take discovery walks in the neighborhood. The same ol' neighborhood, the same yards, the same plants. But, what we can notice that is different? Anything budding? Insects around? Birds building nests? Look deeper beyond the same surface.

I do admit, I have lost more broom handles than I care to remember due to teepee building.

3.  Plant Seeds of Excitement

Buy toys that encourage imagination. We purposely bought a lot of Legos, Duplos, Erector Sets, Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys.  One set is NOT enough, especially if you have several children. I rarely bought the toys new, they were easily found at thrift stores and garage sales.  It's better to have a LOT of one type of toy than just a little amount of many kinds of toys. 
Expose kids to variety of experiences,  books, museums, musics, languages, foods, architecture, art....anything to experience with the senses can stir up passion for life, learning and experiencing.

Have supplies accessible and useable.  My mom always had a few drawers in her sewing cabinet filled with scraps of fabric, laces, buttons and felt.  We were allowed to use anything in any way in those drawers.  I've done the same for my kids with arts and crafts supplies.

4Pull Weeds that Interfere with the Seeds Planted

It's too easy to video-sit our fussy kids.  Nothing brings calm faster than throwing in a video.  Use this relief wisely!  Don't allow yourself to give in often, don't take the easy path, take the best path.  When kids say they're bored and don't know what to do, give them a few options.  Think of something to pretend, play or create.  If my kids didn't take any of my play offers, there were always offers for chores, especially offers to clean the toilets.

Limit time on electronic games and computers.  There is benefit from being computer savvy and playing educational games, but we wise in deciding when it begins to impair instead of instruct.

Too many structured activities and sports leaves little time for creativity. Being a good team player is only one aspect of maturity we need to develop in our children.

5.  Enjoy the harvest.

Enjoy seeing the world through their eyes and listen to their descriptions.  Admire and display their handiwork.  Thrill in the animation of some adventure in the backyard. Watch their plays.  Listen to their songs.  Thrill in their growing sibling relationships.

Wipe the sweat brought on by cultivating, and feast on the harvest.  You're growing a bumper crop of Imaginative Kids. 


  1. Nothing if more fun to me then to hide around a corner and LISTEN to my kids play. Sometimes the content of my OWN character is revealed in what they say.

  2. This just inspires me all the more. I complete agree with this AWESOME post! People often comment on my children's imaginations and it isn't anything I've really done except, I've removed the distractions and let them play. It really is that easy! Again, terrific post!

  3. I really needed to hear this today!! My imagination needs stretching and often my children are hindered by me not being willing to 'make a mess'. Thanks for some great ideas!!

  4. We had a big ol' tent in our living room this morning! :) Thanks for your encouragement on parenting. Your ideas and creativity are something that doesn't just come to my mind, I'm so glad you share yours!!

  5. I sometimes have a hard time as I am not big of a mess person. I am learning to sit back sometimes and just let them play and they can clean up later. :)

  6. Awesome post Mindy to remind me of one of the reasons we home school today. So the children can create and be who God has called them to be. It is so important to grab a a coffee and look away from the mess :-). It's raining here this morning and I can hear sticky tape, and pretend trains! What joys! xxx


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