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Newsflash:
Sunday, 25 March 2001

Imagination: Your Child's Window to the World

Written by  Esther Boylan Wolfson

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The one thing that is obvious to every pre-school teacher is how much young children love imaginative games. When I purchase a new game for my class, some kids get excited. If I buy a new doctor's kit or a fireman costume, well, the whole class lines up for a turn.

Why do young children love imaginative play?

In my years of experience as a pre-school teacher and a mother, it has become clear to me that young children love imaginative play because they can be whatever they want to be. The life of a young child is extremely limited and structured. No three-year-old can go out for a walk by herself, choose her own food, or buy her own clothes. A young child is totally dependent on a parent or caretaker. True, he can express an opinion, but the bottom line is, the parent decides.

Children use a different method to see new places and experience new things --they use their imagination. While a four-year-old named Tracy might only be allowed to walk from home to pre-school and back home again, "Queen Tracy" rules a kingdom, lives in a big castle and rides her horse whenever she wants. The life of three-year-old Michael might be boring, but "Michael the fireman" is a hero.

Why Is Imagination Important?

The magic of early childhood is that children can not only imagine new and interesting situations to enhance their lives but they can also learn from these imagined situations. By putting on a cook's hat and baking up a storm, a child feels happier and more independent, and also thinks about what it really means to be a cook. He reviews his experiences with Mom or Dad in the kitchen and remembers what ingredients his parent use. In deciding to put the pretend pot on the stove or in the oven, he has the opportunity to expand his own world while applying his observations.

As adults, we learn from the world we live in and from our experiences; children do the same. But children have an added talent that every parent should encourage. Children learn not only from what they are, but also from what they want to be.

Last modified on Thursday, 04 April 2013 14:33
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Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Boylan Wolfson

Esther Wolfson , director of our Early Childhood Development Center is an Early Childhood Specialist, who received her BA in English Communications from Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University and an MA in Early Childhood Special Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, both in New York City. Esther worked as a pre-school special education teacher for seven years. Three of those years were spent working in a school for language delayed pre-schoolers, which is her area of specialty. Another special love of hers is cooking with young children. One of her most enjoyable projects was developing a program for cooking with pre-school children for three special education programs. Esther and her husband Myles have three boys aged eight, five and two-years-old. While her three lively boys and her work at WholeFamily, keep her quite busy, in her spare time (if she ever has any!) she is an avid reader who also enjoys creative writing, exercising and swimming.

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Ten Ways to Encourage Your Young Child's Imagination
By Esther Boylan Wolfson

  1. Establish a dress-up corner in your home where you put old clothing and personal accessories (pocketbooks, hats, costume jewelry, Halloween costumes, etc.)
  2. Keep crayons, watercolors, clay, construction paper and glue in an accessible place.
  3. Put on a play with your child based on a story she knows or, even better, based on a story that the child makes up herself. You can relate this to a holiday, wedding or other event.
  4. Provide blankets and sheets for building tents and other imaginative games.
  5. Encourage your child to build with construction toys and other toys, such as Playmobile, that give your child props to create their own world.
  6. Make up songs and stories together. Take turns. You say one line or sentence and she says the next.
  7. Spend as much time as possible in nature, preferably in wild places.
  8. If your child wants you to, get involved in his fantasy. Get on that imaginary boat, be a second-in-command on that spaceship, be the Daddy in the pretend family. Be sure to let your child take the lead.
  9. In the toy corner, have fabric, seashells, stones, sticks, boards, pine cones, string, rope and other open-ended materials.
  10. If you see your child daydreaming, don't interrupt.
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