Note to Readers: Early childhood development should be a ‘no brainer’ for including imagination and play. Today’s new world of screens in every room and each hand find many parents struggling with limiting screen time, getting kids outdoors, and encouraging them to use their imaginations. Some of my best parenting memories are watching my children and their friends pretend that they run an animal hospital in my kitchen. Years later, I still find little doctor notes tucked inside of bags and boxes that they wrote during their play time. Thanks to Deborah for sharing how important these moments are.
By Deborah McNelis,M.S.ed, Owner/Creator of braininsights®
Studies show that the brain is not idle during daydreaming. While imagining, the brain is very active.
I often talk and write passionately about how incredibly important it is that young children have opportunities to play. One of the reasons I promote this so strongly is because the way to develop imagination and creative thought is through unstructured play.
Creativity and imagination are high level skills in the brain. It is critical that we provide opportunities for all of our young children to develop these skills. Just think about where would we be if there were no individuals who have the ability to imagine new possibilities.
It is through repeated experiences that the brain learns and makes connections between neurons. If something is interesting and stimulating to the brain the brain will pay attention. Frequent opportunities that provide the freedom to explore, to experiment, to test out new ideas, to manipulate and learn about a variety of objects using all the senses, and pretending are ways strong brain connections are best created. It is through play that children develop the higher level brain skills. Activities like watching television or DVDs, doing paper and pencil focused on finding the right answer, or using flash cards do not offer the possibility to develop imagination.
Offering varied activities for play and interacting with real objects, people, and nature gives the brain the ability to to gain knowledge about how things in the world work. These types of experiences add to developing essential brain connections and contribute to the knowledge needed for the process of creativity.
A lack of stress allows children to combine previous knowledge gained with new information. Brains are then able to generate new thoughts and ideas.
Research demonstrates that the brain is actually more active during daydreaming than it is when doing a routine task. Creative ideas occur when the brain is in a relaxed state. This is why many creative people talk about ideas coming to them in the middle of the night or while taking a shower.
It is important for many reasons to reduce stress levels for children. Persistent stress can have a long lasting and physical effect on the brain. When children are continuously living with stress, levels of the stress hormone, cortisol stays high. This impacts a child’s behavior and learning abilities.
While some stress is inevitable and also necessary, children need stress free time in their days. The brain sees both over stimulation and under stimulation as stress. Through providing fun interactive child directed activities, a child will get just what their brain needs!
The following ideas from, The Brain Development Series Activity Packets are easy ways families can provide experiences during every day life to advance creativity and imagination skills.
From: Help Me Thrive While I’m Five
Provide a variety of empty containers for e to build creative structures. Examples of containers to use, empty cereal boxes, oatmeal boxes, powdered drink mix containers, etc. I may want to cover the boxes with paper and draw windows and doors on the buildings I create. I can be creating while you are getting doing the dishes or cooking dinner.
Another way we can do this: Provide milk and water bottle caps for me to create towers and designs.
Brain Fact: My brain benefits from play most when I am given the time and the opportunity to let my imagination go.
From: More to Do While I’m Two
LOTS OF ANSWERS
While waiting for an appointment or while standing in line, ask me to tell you about objects you point to. Simply point to an object and say, “Tell me about that.” Let me just tell you anything I want to say about it.
Brain Fact: Letting me answer questions with more than a yes or no response helps me use the thinking part of my brain in the early stages of its development.
From: Let’s Learn More While I’m Four
Find or save things for me to pretend with. For example: Save food containers to play grocery store; line up chairs for a train or bus; set up combs, brushes, etc. for a hair salon; put out old shoes and shoe boxes for a shoe store; books and index cards to play library; or make play money to make a bank; and so on.
Brian Fact: Play is the best way for my brain to develop. If I am pushed to learn I may have less interest in learning. Stress is not good for my brain. Fun learning will help me now and in the future.
As an Early Brain Development Specialist and owner of Brain Insights, Deborah is the award winning author of, The Brain Development Series and Naturally Developing Young Brains. She has been seen in several national publications, her brain development packets and new App sell worldwide, and she receives rave reviews for her presentations throughout the country. Deborah is overjoyed with the response to her company, braininsights® due to her passion to create awareness of the importance of the early years. Her goal through this work is for everyone to gain an understanding of early brain development, it’s impact, and the ways we can all easily make a difference.
For more brain development information and ideas for your family to enjoy go to: www.braininsightsonline.com
Indigo Dreams contains stories designed to help your child reduce stress and increase imagination.