Children’s Imagination

“One of the virtues of being very young is that you don’t let the facts get in the way of your imagination.”
~Sam Levenson

Imagination, Learning and Intelligence
Some children are more “into” science, and other children are more “into” art. As a kid I was always a little scientist. I loved lists and diagrams and charts, and was rarely drawn to art or drawing.

In art classes at school, children are encouraged to use their imagination and express it creatively. I realized when I learned about Benzene Rings in Chemistry that the imagination is just as important for every topic a child might want to be good at – whether one of the sciences or one of the arts!

In the 1800’s, the structure of Benzene was under much debate among scientists. Although they knew it was made up of Carbon and Hydrogen atoms, the scientists were puzzled as to how the atoms were connected.
A German chemist called Kekulé finally solved the mystery – using his imagination. Here’s his story:

“I was sitting, writing at my text book, but the work did not progress; my thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eyes, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures, of manifold conformation: long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together, all twining and twisting in snake-like motion. But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes. As if by a flash of lightning I awoke; and this time also I spent the rest of the night working out the consequences of the hypothesis.”

Another great scientist who was famed for using his imagination was Thomas Edison. When Edison was struggling with a problem, he often catnapped and daydreamed – and had many breakthroughs by using his imagination in this way.

So – how to help your child use his imagination for learning? Anything you can do to encourage him in the use of his imagination during play and every day life is a good thing – for instance:

* Encourage your children to play games where they take on roles from their favorite books or TV shows. Even better, play with them and develop your own imagination at the same time!

* You can teach your kids to tell stories with a few little dolls and the simplest of props – if they have an enthusiastic audience in Dad or Mom they will love doing this and it will help them develop their imagination.

* Give them something “ordinary” to play with and encourage them to think of lots of fun uses for it. An empty cardboard box can become a boat, a house, a bed… the possibilities are endless and this kind of play is often more stimulating to the imagination than expensive toys.

* Encourage your child to tell you about his dreams – ask him first thing in the morning as he is more likely to remember – this helps him develop his capacity for dreaming creatively, and shows him that you are interested in him and his imagination.

In addition, you can teach your child a problem-solving approach to study problems that will encourage him to use his imagination. At its simplest, this can take be taught as follows:

* Write out the problem on a sheet of paper. It might be the topic for a science essay for example. For instance, your child might have an essay to write on “How plants grow.”

* Add notes of different things that you think might be relevant. Photosynthesis, water, minerals, soil, and so on. This can be a list or better still a colorful mind map.

* When the ideas dry up, go and have a lie down! On the couch or on a bed, but somewhere quiet. No TV or distractions. And just close your eyes and start imagining (suggest “tell yourself a story in your head about it” if your child seems unsure what you’re asking him to do).

* When you feel ready, go back and tackle the problem or essay! It is likely to be easier, flow more readily and be more creative and fun to write.

Whether your child is more of a scientist or more of an artist, encouraging him to use his imagination is a wonderful way to help him find more enjoyment – and more success – in all kinds of studies.

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