Whether your child is an introvert, an extrovert or a little bit of both she can learn how to make an impact on the world using the power of imagination.

Imagination means the power to create with one’s mind. It means forming mental images or concepts that are not present to the senses yet. Creative imagination means recombining former experiences to create new images directed at a specific goal or to aid in the solution of a problem. If you want to create a more hopeful world, you have to be able to imagine one first. Parents can help kids become more visionary by nurturing imagination from birth onward. Here’s how.

Read Out Loud. Reading can counterbalance screen overexposure, which can turn kids into passive observers. Start reading aloud when your children are very young – it promotes language development and early literacy skills. Eventually you’ll be able to take turns reading out loud with your children. Practicing literacy from a young age opens the door to the infinite stories available in books for a lifetime.

Allow Time for Unstructured Play. Full schedules are great, but too much structure sucks the joy out of kids’ lives. Studies have shown that countries that have longer recess times perform better academically than countries with shorter recesses. Play is not only healthy for kids; it also makes them smarter. So be sure to carve out plenty of downtime at home, no matter how busy life is, to give kids the necessary space to decompress and self-express.

Provide Art Supplies. Pencils, crayons, paints, papers, clay, chalk, fabric, embellishments and yarn. These are basic art supplies every young artist needs. A table spread out with age-appropriate art supplies is all any heart needs to take flight. Dabbling in creative endeavors helps kids clear their minds so they can relax and solve their own problems.

Be an Enthusiastic Audience. My husband and I have often been entertained by our daughter and her friends’ impromptu kitchen shows, which have helped them become more intrepid performers today. Kids often want to share what they can do and it’s important to stop what you are doing and let them put on a performance. Voice encouragement for effort and risk-taking, and let each performer have a chance to shine. Don’t be afraid to clap and cheer. Actors feed off the energy of a supportive audience.

Encourage Balanced Escapism. Parents need to supervise a child’s immersive habits, such as video game playing, to avoid overexposure. But a life with no escapism, when so many opportunities for experiencing virtual realities exist, is a mistake. As your kids get older, find ways to participate in their indulgences of choice, whether that’s watching a favorite television show, going head-to-head in a dance-off or competing in virtual battlefields. Escapism offers everyone in the family opportunities to rest and recharge.

Pretend Together. Let’s face it; being a grownup can feel pretty overwhelming sometimes. Why not enjoy a break and let your children lead you into a world of their own creation? Forget being in charge for a change and follow your child’s lead. Join your kids on the floor or at the craft table for some messy, hands-on fun. Anyone can remember how to play, especially when you are willing surrender to the magic of the moment.

Encouraging Imagination Through the Arts

Sign Them up for Theater. As children grow, they may lose their joy of playing imagination games. One way to help children continue valuing their imaginations, despite emerging self-consciousness, is to introduce them to theater at a young age. Take them to children’s theater productions, encourage participation in age-appropriate theater at school, and sign them up for children’s acting workshops in your community. Workshops may be offered through studios, at professional theaters, or through your school district.

Enroll Them in Dance. When we think of dance, we may picture diva ballerinas or overly meddlesome mothers, but dancers learn many helpful, practical skills that carry over naturally into everyday life. And dance performed regularly and intensively is both a sport and a multi-sensory art form that may raise your child’s self-esteem. Ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, acrobatics and hip hop are the most common forms of dance you will find offered at your local dance studio.

Let Them Sing. Encourage your music-loving child to try using her own voice. Singing is healthy physically, psychologically and socially whether your child’s singing is pitch-perfect or not. Elementary school choir is a good place to gage a student’s interest in group singing. Take your child to concerts, whether her interest is in classical, jazz or rock music. Encourage her to audition for musicals at school, look for community youth choral groups or investigate the possibility of voice lessons.

Hand Them a Paintbrush. If the arts and crafts table at school is your child’s favorite place, now is the perfect time to further his love for visual arts. Painting, drawing, collaging, sculpting and a multitude of other art forms teach perseverance, relieve stress, boost self-esteem and give kids a new way to see the world around them. Visit local art museums, take in special exhibits and provide him with quality art supplies. Look into lessons at a local studio, community center or school.

– Christina Katz

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