Imagination, something we’re all born with. Two year olds can spend hours stacking their toys to see what will happen. They have long, detailed, conversations with their dolls and stuffed animals. Remember playing house when you were little, or maybe cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers? So why is it so many of us lose that sense of creativity as we get older?
Children today don’t exercise the imagination portion of their brains. They play video games, watch movies, some even read books, but that’s not the same. They don’t need an imagination to watch a movie like “Star Wars” or “Avatar”. The imagination side of creating those movies has all been done for them. While a video game might help hone their problem-solving skills, again, the imagination portion of the story has been done.
When my son was young Transformers were all the rage (the first time around). He wanted them and he wanted them in the worst way. But I knew that if I bought him one I’d have to eventually buy him more; and not far down the line he’d set them aside for the next fad that caught his attention. So, I said no. He had plenty of toys and I’d have to say no. I didn’t disapprove of them; I just didn’t want to get caught-up in the hype. After he got over his disappointment he disappeared into his room only to reappear a little later to proudly show off his new Lego creations. He’d engineered his own Transformers. While over the years I have on occasion backed down to both him and his sister on other fads, I was always glad I didn’t back down on that one. He used his imagination and he got a lot more joy and pride out of those simple Lego creations than anything I could have bought him at Toys R Us.
As a writer, I get to use my imagination all the time. I’ve gone from making up stories about Ken and Barbie to making up a life story for Mary Bishop, and now Alice Armstrong. I take the characters that grow in my head and place them in different time periods and locations. I can put them in dangerous situations I hope to never have to experience personally, and then get them safely out again…all with my imagination.
Have you ever heard of a round-robin story? Try this the next time you have a snowy, or rainy, afternoon and your children are complaining they’re bored; or the next time you’re on a long car trip and they’re starting to “touch” each other in the backseat making the other scream or cry. A round-robin story is when each person takes a turn making up a part of a story; simple as that. The first person starts with “once upon a time there was…” and goes from there to set up the characters. Then each person in turn adds to the plot. You never know where the story will lead and hopefully the whining and poking will stop. I remember doing something similar in grade school where you drew a monster on the blackboard. Each person drew one part of the monster until it was done. Colored chalk made that one even more fun. If you’re in a position to do something like that, you could start out creating your monster(s) and then go right into a round-robin story about the monster(s). You could even do a little improv where each person takes on a specific character and you play-act the story, making it up as you go.
That’s just a few ideas. There are so many ways to keep imagination alive. It will make your children more well-rounded and creative-thinking adults in the end.