My daughter is 6 months old. I am an artist who has not spent any time around children since I was a child myself. I’d like to know what I can do as a parent to stimulate my daughter’s imagination.
Thanks in advance,
First of all, I’d say: trust yourself and your instincts. In order for imagination to flourish, children need to feel safe and supported. As you probably know, being creative requires confidence and independence. Children gain confidence and independence when they are encouraged to make choices, develop their own interests and take risks within a nurturing environment.
The first step in creating such an environment is to tune in and responsively respond to your infant from birth. When you engage in interactive exchanges with your baby, she will know that she is valued. This serve and return interaction will help forge a secure bond between you and your baby that becomes the foundation for her trust and feelings of safety and belongingness throughout her life.
Topics and books
Another important consideration in fostering imagination and creativity is to intentionally choose interesting topics and books for your interactive conversations. You are teaching your daughter how to view the world even as a baby. When you are out walking, you can talk to her about what you see: the colors, the patterns and the movements. As you point out the things you notice and listen and respond to the things she notices through her gestures, you are teaching her to be observant about her world. When you read good books together you can expand her experiences and introduce her to worlds that are beyond your own – both real and imagined. Read lots and lots of books every day!
Toys that spur imagination
As your daughter grows and begins to engage in play with objects, choose toys that have more than one, or even no predetermined purpose. Toys that are designed to function in one particular way are limited in their scope and use. Encourage your growing baby to play with real life objects around the house such as pots and pans or natural objects found outside.
Extend pretend play
Follow your daughter’s lead when she begins to show interest in pretend play. Most children are inclined to engage in imaginative play at some point and you have the power to foster and encourage her pretend play to grow and develop. When you read books together, pretend to “eat” the food that is pictured on the page. “Smell” the flowers in photographs as you talk about what you see. When your daughter brings you a “cup of tea” to drink, sip it slowly and savor it, or pretend to “burn” your tongue. As you enter and expand her play in this way, her imagination will be ignited and she will want to expand it even further.
Time, space and nature
Give your daughter time and space to explore elements such as sand, water and other sensory delights. Provide containers, funnels and other tools to be used as she pleases and try to avoid the notion that there is one correct way to do things, especially in play.
As your daughter’s fine motor skills develop, make a variety of art materials available to her for open-ended projects. Paper of all shapes, colors and sizes, play dough, crayons, pencils, markers, paint, scissors, tape and glue are a good start. Empty boxes and packaging materials provide some children with hours of imaginative play and can be used as is, or as a starting point for making other things.
In short, security, engagement, time, space and multi-use materials are all great ways to stimulate your child’s imagination.
Have fun playing!
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