Just like a tiny seed grows into a mature tree, one hardly noticeable trait, if encouraged, can flourish into a character quality that will ensure a child's success as an adult: imagination. I know that when I was the mother of young children, I frequently passed over the little things, waiting for the day when my children were older and what I did with them would “really count.” It took seeing them grow to adulthood for me to learn firsthand how important those little things are!
Imagination in a child cannot be overrated. Encourage imaginative play by letting children make toys to play with out of household items. Encourage them to make up stories, and listen carefully as they share. Work to solve problems together rather than always fixing things for them. All these things combine to create a person who can make good choices in life. Funny thing is, a well-developed imagination works wonders for school performance as well!
Consider the imagination needed to solve math problems, plan a report, or stop a fight on the playground. A child with a great imagination will not be passive, letting others dictate what comes into his life. It takes imagination to manage money successfully and to predict consequences to choices and actions.
A fun activity I led several years ago showed me how truly inventive children can be if their imaginations are encouraged. I supplied the kids with shapes I cut out of scraps of construction paper. They also had colors, markers, tape, glue and other creative supplies. The children started by gluing shapes onto white sheets of paper, and when they had finished doing that, they embellished their designs with markers and crayons. I was so amazed at what they came up with.
Below are two of the projects the kids made. The first was made by a boy (P) who immediately set to work with confidence and a smile, and completed four projects in the length of time it took the other two to complete one. P made an almost completely symmetrical space machine.
The second project was made by another boy (M), who started slowly and then gradually picked up speed. M's project began from one object, a purple heart, and eventually turned into a motor home.
On the surface, this activity might look like just one more messy-but-fun art project. But the value to the children lay in the fact that they were developing their imaginations by taking simple shapes and creating brand new objects. This is a kindergarten seed that can grow into valuable life habits such as looking ahead, problem solving and imagining outcomes.