Very young children naturally have healthy imaginations. But they become less imaginative as they grow older and their imaginary play is replaced by logic, reason, and facts.
While this change is necessary for growth, kids need to combine both imagination and reality to become creative problem solvers. Fortunately, parents and teachers can nurture imagination in kids to keep this part of their brains active and thriving.
Here are 21 ways to nurture imagination in kids…
1.) Ask “What if…” questions to get kids thinking about different scenarios and possible outcomes. For example, ask “What if ____ had never been invented? How would the world be different?”
2.) Practice brainstorming techniques and non-judgemental divergent thinking.
3.) Model curiosity by sharing aloud things that you wonder or think about.
4.) Play the “Alphabet Photo Game”. You can play this inside, outside, or both. Challenge kids to find and photograph something in the shape of each letter, either man-made or in nature. Not the actual letter (that would be too easy!), but just things that look like those letters.
5.) Ask open-ended questions where there isn’t only one right answer.
6.) Do a popcorn drawing. Have kids study a single piece of popcorn until they “see” something in it. It may look like a face, a bug, or a bear sitting on a rock wearing a red bandana. Then have them add details to their drawing so others can “see” what they see.
7.) You can nurture imagination in kids with role-playing. Pretend to have a unique problem. Who would you ask for help and how would you solve it?
8.) Develop skills of observation and “seeing like an artist” with Echo Drawing.
9.) See the potential in things. List as many possible uses as you can for random items, like a Q-tip, a hammer, a sponge, or a ruler.
10.) Look at clouds together and ask kids what they “see” in them.
11.) Ask “I wonder… What do you think?” questions. You might wonder what someone thinks or feels about something, or how something works. Discuss the possibilities before you look for the answer together.
12.) Look for associations between unrelated items with the Elements of Art Memory Game.
13.) Spend time in nature. Walks and hikes give lots of opportunities for discussion and open-ended questions.
14.) Read aloud to kids and encourage them to read to you! Read everything from novels and biographies to articles of interest in newspapers and online. Reading inspires kids to exercise their imaginations as they form pictures in their minds of scenes, characters, and events.
15.) Play “Shark Tank”. Have kids work in teams using a random assortment of items to “invent” something with. You might give them things like masking tape, a rubber band, some index cards, a paper clip, and a kleenex. Then have them “pitch” their invention to a group of “investors”.
16.) Find an unusual item at an antique store or yard sale and try to guess what it was used for.
17.) Show kids that you value imagination by participating with them when they “pretend” something.
18.) “I Spy” games will strengthen kids’ observation skills, which aids imagination. You can play them while you wait in line, in traffic, or anytime you have an extra minute or two.
A Beach Ball Scavenger Hunt is fun for classrooms when there’s time before you transition between subjects. “I Spy” and “Where’s Waldo?” books will help kids become better noticers, too.
19.) Search your local thrift stores for interesting things to play “dress up” with. You’ll need to be more creative for older kids but that’s part of the fun! Nothing inspires “pretending” like unusual clothes and props.
20.) Leave some basic art supplies out for kids to create what they want. Then vary those supplies from time to time. Give kids the freedom to explore and experiment with materials without the pressure of having to create a finished product.
21.) Visit art museums and galleries, in person or virtually. Talk about what you notice and how or why an artist might have created what they did. Ask, “How do you think the artist got the idea to make this?” Or, “Why do you think the artist chose to use those colors?”
Our imaginations are like muscles that get stronger with exercise. As you’ve probably guessed, the ways to nurture imagination in kids are endless. And while you’re planning how to nurture their imaginations, you’ll be nurturing yours at the same time!
an inspiring quote:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ~ Albert Einstein
The first part of this quote is more widely known than what follows. But what follows is the “why” and we need that to have its complete meaning.
Change is constantly happening all around us. Even if we could teach our students all there is to know right now, moments afterward it would be incomplete.
We must adapt to change with innovative solutions while new problems and demands are simultaneously arising. Our kids will need healthy imaginations to meet this challenge with creativity and forward-thinking!