Friday, February 4, 2011

The Wonder of Imagination

I have been reading Anthony Esolen's book Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child. I am only on Method 4, but I am enjoying the book. One reason is that by God's grace I have basically raised my children according to what Esolen says aids the imagination. I like books that justify my choices! For example, when I send the children outside because they are getting on my nerves to play, Esolen says that I am aiding the development of their imaginations. I have always sent my children out often because they get on my nerves often because intuitively I knew that it was good for them to be outside. I even locked the oldest 3 out of the house one time because they did not want to go outside and so kept filtering back in. They stood with their faces plastered against the sliding glass door begging to come back in. I sat on the other side and ignored them. They resigned themselves to the fact that they were stuck outside and then went off to play. When it was dinner time they did not want to come in. They had built this whole little community underneath the trees lining our fence.

Another item of importance for Esolen is developing the memory for as he says "without the library of the memory...the imagination simply does not have much to think about, or to play with". This was a big Aha moment for me when I came to understand this. I was not just having my children memorize random things to fill up their minds, but things with which their minds could make connections. Again, by God's grace, we have always done a lot of memory work to develop these foundations. Ditto on Esolen's other building blocks of the imagination - don't supervise the child all the time, teach them to use machines/tools, and read fairy tales.

I thought at one time, like many people, that all children had imaginations. Maybe it is a part of each person's nature, after all God is certainly imaginative and we are made in His image; but imagination does not flourish naturally. How do I know this? Enter Anna. Anna came to us with an imagination that if it had ever been there had been destroyed. Typical of children who grow up in an orphanage (although certainly not all children) is a lack of imaginative play. When Anna arrived she did very well with structured activities - puzzles, card or board games, coloring (but only in a coloring book), etc., but had not a clue what to do if the other kids were engaged in some sort of imaginative play - dolls, blocks, stuffed animals, outside play etc. This was quite amazing to me that a child would not naturally be able to play imaginatively. Why is it important anyway? Well for one, imagination plays a big part in developing cognitive skills. But more important being able to think creatively and adapt to different situations can greatly impact a child's success in life. So how is Anna doing now? We are making progress. She sat down last night on her own and built a house and an airplane with Lincoln Logs. Not a big deal for most people, but for her a big step. Are most children going to be like Anna? Of course not. But do not take a child's imagination for granted. Go, find a child, and fan the flames of their imagination! (Or at least get them off the computer and send them outside.) Oh, and read the book - I think you will find it worthwhile.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Great post, Kim ... with some great insights into your newest child. I've noticed a bit of that over here ... though definitely getting better.