By Colleen Kelly, Early Years Creative Arts Teacher
“The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Folding paper may seem like a simple and almost mundane activity, but by adding a pair of scissors and a few snips here and there…magic happens. As I observe, the sheer excitement on the children’s faces when they open up the paper to discover intricate cut-out designs and as they squeal in delight, I realize that imagination is everywhere. Every invention or idea began with one simple thought, “imagine if…”
That is why it is vital to foster children’s imagination. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. How many of us spent their summers imagining that we were princesses and pirates using a simple cardboard box and a few crayons? Giving children plenty of unstructured time to let them explore and discover their world is the key. As Thomas A. Edison once said, “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.” In Early Years, we love junk. Old newspapers, magazines, toilet paper rolls, bubble wrap or pieces of fabric can be magically transformed into a super flying machine, or a giant’s castle! Sometimes the children may need a gentle nudge to get the creative juices flowing. The teachers could ask simple guided questions such as, “what does this look like to you?”, or “what could this be?”, “If we put this and that together, what could we make?” These questions allow a framework for the thought process to begin.
All fun aside, imagination and creativity is serious business. It is a crucial part of a child’s cognitive process. It is a way for children to develop their fine motor skills, communication skills, build their vocabulary and improve their logical thought processes. It also assists in building neurological connections within their brains. Using their imagination is a way for children to explore their surroundings, learn about historical events, and discover new cultures. In Early Years, imagination is embedded in all aspects of teaching; Mathematics, Sciences, Languages and the Arts. This imaginative play allows the children to work on problem solving skills and builds confidence to approach real life situations with more self-reliance.
If you look closely, opportunities to use our imaginations are everywhere. A walk around the school could be an adventure in the jungle, or a trip to the Library could a quest to find treasure.
“Everything you can imagine is real.” – Pablo Picasso