Monday, January 28, 2013

Inspiring Imagination

In this time of technology it is easy to forget the importance of letting our children play with toys that let them explore their imaginations rather than those that create them for them. It's too easy to let our televisions, computers, tablets and cell phones entertain our kids but in doing that we are depriving them of experiences that are critical to their development. So what to do?

Turn them off, put them away and let your children get bored. Yep, I said it! Let your kids get bored. In their boredom they will have to try to find another form of entertainment. Instead of leaving electronic toys out for them to play with leave out more traditional toys like cars, blocks, kitchen toys, stuffed animals, dolls, etc... Let your children play with toys that don’t make noise so they have to make it themselves, toys that do not move by themselves so they have to move them, toys that require imagination.

My daughter has a lot of energy and has been that way since the beginning. She has also always had a fascination with electronics. At first we thought it was cute how she played with the phone and watched TV and played with the computer and controllers. It was as if she had been programmed to know how to use them. When we let her play with toys that are designed for children her age had no interest except those who had made noise or had lights.

It was time for a change. My daughter was not using toys that would inspire her to use her imagination! It was not funny, it was something that really bothered me a lot. As a child I always lived in the world I created with my imagination. I played with dolls and dress-up cloths, I played in the woods and hunted lizards and visited my imaginary friend owl. I had toy animals because I loved playing that I was veterinary and I skated to music. I played without electronic toys and used my imagination to have fun. I want that for my daughter.

I decided to change her environment. I put away the controllers and computer we were letting her play with. I only left out the age appropriate toys that made noise and had lights. Sometimes I let her play with our electronics but the important thing is that she isn’t always playing in a noisy environment. I leave out toys that require her to make her own sound effects or she has musical toys. I leave out toys that she can use to pretend that she is cooking, caring for a baby, out shopping or whatever but that stimulates her imagination.

As it turned out, my daughter has shown she can do more than you thought. She does things with her toys that I had no idea she knew how to do but that she must have observed. When we gave her kitchen toys she immediately started playing as if she was cooking without us showing her how to do it and she has not even spent much time in the kitchen with me in. With little demonstration she learned how to use their zoo and farm toys on their play set. When we were building with her blocks she destroys them one piece at a time or separates them after demolishing what we built. She carries and gives kisses to her doll and stuffed animals, and when near our cat she gives her warm snuggly hugs.

What surprised me the most was that when she received her first piano she immediately ignored everything else and started playing music and trying to sing without us even showing her what to do. She is also very attracted to books and loves to turn the pages by herself. It is amazing to see how she is learning all these little things that she must have observed without us noticing. Although she was very angry at first because she wanted to use our electronic things and still always wants to try to reach my computer she is spending more and more time playing with her toys or dancing to music without the distraction of electronics.

Although we try to provide an environment that inspires creative play we do not always do it without electronics. Sometimes we let her watch movies or cartoons but try to choose those with lots of music and ones that are suitable for children. She also has electronic toys like her keyboard that has a microphone and a toy computer and play phone and a few more things that have lights and make noise. The important thing is that we do not always where she can use. The important thing is to monitor how long she is using them for.

The most important thing in all this is to be a parent and let them explore safely. Give them an environment that lets them imitate what they see and play pretend. We have to watch what we teach our children and it is our duty to ensure that they do not observe us doing things we do not want them to do. We control the view of the world that our kids have. We are their first teachers and what they use as an example in life. Even though they may be small we can see them imitate what they have observed from us.

Children learn by observation and when they get bored we can see how they find other forms of play. Let them explore their imagination and play using the information they have absorbed. Give them space and encourage them to play make believe with their toys.

Si te gustaría esta entrada en español por favor visita Pompa En Tela.

*Raquel is a contributing writer as part of the Thrifty Nifty Mommy Blogger Network. You can read more from Raquel (In Spanish!) on her personal blog, Pompa En Tela.*

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