Kids Flexing Imagination Muscles
To paraphrase Mark Twain, accounts of the end of childhood imagination have been greatly exaggerated. As much as media reports raise concerns about the dominance of video games and abundance of organized activities in kids’ lives, evidence indicates that, if anything, their creativity actually is increasing.
So says research from Case Western Reserve University psychology researcher Sandra Russ, PhD, and doctoral student Jessica Dillon.
The scholars recently reviewed more than a dozen studies of children’s play from 1985 to 2008, looking for clues about the changing dynamics of imagination, expression of emotions and storytelling. The format of the experiments stayed the same over the years: Researchers gave children between the ages of 6 and 10 five minutes of unstructured time with blocks and puppets. The footage revealed that kids today use their imaginations in play more than they did a generation ago.
Russ theorizes that much-maligned electronic games could actually be providing greater opportunity for kids to stretch their imaginations than adults initially realize.
However it’s developed, Russ stresses, imagination is important.
“Children who exhibit imaginative and emotional play have shown better skills at coping, creativity and problem solving,” she explains.
Children have a drive to play and always will find ways to do it, Russ says, and she advises parents to provide opportunities for all kinds of imaginative pursuits— including unstructured time.