The word ‘imagination’ is all about thinking creatively, seeing the world differently, thinking outside the box, and inventing new ideas. With your little one around you, you must be so engrossed in the world of Lego blocks, barbies, unicorns, batman… the list is endless!
Young children are naturally imaginative — their experiences aren’t too many, but their minds are open and curious. Some children are born with an extremely active imagination, and these kids quickly master what exists and move on to working beyond what already exists and build something new, at times in their minds itself!
We’ve spoken to Fatema Contractor, a counselling psychologist and co-founder of Walk It Off, a counsellor and life coach expert, who has given us her views on this important subject and even suggested ways and activities to help balance overactive imagination.
Let’s look at the characteristics of over-imaginative kids
Characteristics Of A Child With An Active Imagination
- They love to daydream
- They over-imagine events/scenarios
- They find new ways of looking at things
- They like being independent/spending time alone and have their own way of doing things
- They generally interpret their thoughts with the help of music, drawings and stories
Overactive Imagination – Tips
A lot of us don’t really understand that too much of imagination isn’t necessarily good. While we’re lost in the world of daydream, it’s important that we always communicate how much of it is a reality and how much is make-belief to our little ones.
According to Fatema, “Some children escape into their imaginary world when real-life situations are tough. The lack of social interaction with peers can be one reason that leads to an increase in imaginative play in some children.”
She also points out that “While other children are creative thinkers and, therefore, tend to indulge in imaginative play, parents should only encourage their children towards different avenues if it is affecting their emotional, social, and cognitive development.”
Here are a few tips from Ms Contractor:
If you are a parent to an imaginative child, you will second our theory that, at times, children create scenarios that make it hard to differentiate between made-up stories and real-life events. In such cases, making your child understand the difference between the two is essential. But remember that all children are entitled to their own preferences, and parents must intervene if the children:
- Choose not to make real friends over imaginary friends
- Resist outdoor play over imaginary play
- Are unable to focus in the real world, while studying or performing an activity.
- Are unable to distinguish between their real and imaginary world
Balancing Imagination And Reality
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ rule to help in the area of over-imagination as every child is unique in their interpretation of their real and make-believe world,” says Fatema.
The mind of a small child and that of an adult think and work in different ways. While growing up, children absorb everything in their surroundings without questioning it. Therefore, children have limited ability to differentiate between imagination and reality.
Children’s imagination can be based on actual events and their personal experiences with reality. Imaginative kids are creative; thus, children add a hint of creativity to their imagination, which sometimes results in overactive imagination.
So, how do one balance children’s overactive imagination and reality? Ms Contractor says that every child is unique in their interpretation of their real and make-believe world. However, if beyond the age of 5-6, a child prefers to live only in their imaginary world that interferes with social development, then parents need to engage them in different kinds of activities that can help them stimulate social interaction, allow them to enjoy the real world as much as the imaginary world and provide constructive avenues to use their imaginative skills
Here are a few tips to help deal with an over imaginative child. But before reading that, parents must remember that the idea is to stop children from over imagining and not suppressing their imagination.
5 Tips To Deal With An Over Imaginative Kid
- Help your kid find the balance between imaginative play and real-world events
- If a child has a vivid imagination, help them focus their imagination in positive ways
- Ask open-ended questions from your child about their imagination and let your child take the lead
- If your child is doing something that will not harm them, do not discourage them. Instead, be involved in their interest
- Encourage a healthy distraction when you think that your child is over imagining. You can ask them to pick from activities like reading story books, playing games, riding a bicycle, and even timed screen activities
Children with vivid imaginations thrive in creative learning environments. If they are taught using stimuli that help them channel their creativity, they have a better chance to retain what is taught.
Activities To Engage Over Imaginative Kids
An expert in this area, Fatema Contractor suggests some interesting activities that will help engage little ones and make it fun for them at the same time –
1. Story Telling/ Story Writing
Story telling/writing is an excellent way for children to express themselves and use their imaginative abilities constructively. The children can draw or write what they are feeling and express their thoughts to their parents easily.
2. Creative Thinking Classes
Activity classes are a great way to channel an overactive imagination as these classes help give some structure and creative constraints to children. At “Walk It Off”, Fatema conducts several workshops that help children give reign to their creativity. Enrolling in such classes has proved beneficial for many children.
3. Interactive Platform
Children have creative minds, and they need to put their thoughts and ideas across with their parents or peers. But due to a hectic lifestyle, parents and children miss out on these interactions. Therefore, it is important to provide children with such a platform where they can interact with their adults.
4. Provide Creative Constraints
Parents need to provide children with basic blocks of time or broad structures because when children know they have a framework, they are more productive.
To conclude, Fatema says, “Research suggests that an active imagination in children is positively correlated to brain development and intellectual ability later in life. Therefore, imaginative play is extremely useful for child development as long as it doesn’t hinder their development and growth.” So, listen to your children and participate in their games/play to fathom their thoughts.
There’s a lot one can learn about their children, and an ambiguous topic like imagination can, well, leave a lot to our imagination as parents! We hope we were able to answer some queries on the topic, and we hope your experiences with your little one are more fulfilling thanks to the pointers suggested by Ms Contractor.