"The most important failure was one of imagination."
9/11 Commission Report, topping the list of failures at all levels of government to prevent such an attack
As we talk here about enriching children's lives, it is easy to get into checklist mode. Alphabet knowledge? Check. Fine motor skills? Check. And on and on we go. As parents, learning to integrate intentional practice of skills that will prepare a child for kindergarten and beyond is a big deal, and making it all feel like fun and games is all the more challenging. We're here to help make it easier, and agree that it is a big job!
This week, let's take a step back and think about imagination. It is the driving force of invention and ingenuity, yet it can't be taught. It's development requires chunks of free time to practice, yet it is impossible to schedule when a great idea might strike. It comes from within, yet requires some external prompting or influence. And to top it all off, the best ideas generally emerge from the process of problem solving, but is putting a child in a "problem" situation the best way to teach it? Developing imagination isn't so easy to cross off the list. And yet our national security, economic growth, and cultural development rely on it.
One solution: forts. Yes folks, we're talking tables covered in sheets. A mainstay of snow days for generations. The bigger the better. There's something magical about creating your own enclosed space. These spaces breed ghost stories and shadow puppets, secrets and knock-knock jokes, and make a cozy spot to curl up with a teddy bear (or ten) and look at books. The best fort I was ever associated with involved a pool table covered in sheets, some of which were staked out on to folding chairs to annex more space. Sleeping bags were both inside and on the the rooftop balcony. Best I remember there was a Lite Brite nearby casting a rainbow glow, but I could be romanticizing things. All I know is that I am amazed that my very tidy mother allowed that mess to stay up long enough that I could have such vivid memories of it.
Unscheduled, unstructured time (in a fort or elsewhere) is absolutely required for the development of imagination. In our rush to do all and be all, kids still need time to "be kids,"
and the truth is that building a fort at home just might take you back to a simpler time.
For more ideas, check out this link on creativity and play.