Last week I wrote about the idea of encouraging kids to use their imaginations because it can help them to develop better problem-solving skills. This week I want to share three ways the power of imagination can help kids psychologically.
Facing fears. Children are frequently fearful, and they can have worries, just like adults do. Since they lack the life experience that can help adults put worries in perspective, their imaginations can help them deal with these issues. Pretend play offers multiple opportunities for a child to engage the monster in the closet, so to speak, or to dialog with other things that may be causing anxiety in their lives.
Parents might encourage a child to deal with these fears—whether it’s the fear of the dark or of monsters under the bed—by encouraging them to talk back to whatever they’re fearing. As children find their voice they may gain a sense of control over their situation, and the fear-inspiring thing loses some of its size and power.
Dealing with change. Imagination also offers a chance for kids to explore emotions beside fear, such as emotions that come from changes in their lives. Maybe there is a new baby coming into the home, or a new stepparent joining the family dynamic.
During times like these, some parents observe that their child’s imaginative play may seem angry or frustrated. But this type of play can be a good thing. It’s a chance for children to vent any confusing feelings that they may have about these changes in their lives, which can help them adapt more quickly to those changes.
Increased self-esteem. Self-esteem can be boosted tremendously through imaginative play. Think about it: young children have less control over their lives than any other segment of the population. So what an incredible gift it is for them to be able to imagine doing cool, powerful adult things. Whether they are pretending to be a doctor, a fireman, or superhero, they get to try on different aspects of their own developing personalities, and imagine a time in life when they will be able to live life to their fullest adult potential.
These are only three psychological benefits that kids can experience when they use their imaginations freely. It’s amazing to realize that something that comes so naturally to any child—imagination—can also help them deal with so many problems that they might not be able to handle otherwise. Next week I’ll write a little bit about some of the psychosocial benefits of imagination for kids.
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