Sunday, 3 February 2013

Freed by imagination

One of my favourite things to do as a little girl was enter the world of my imagination. When I was four years old I was obsessed with Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
In my make believe world, our pink-walled lounge room with its 1970s inspired brown, shaggy carpet became the Yellow Brick Road and my imaginary friends and I would race around the lounge chairs trying to escape the Wicked Witch. My eyes no longer saw the ordinariness of my home but a glittering world of adventure, fantasy, and possibilities.

Now I see my own three year old daughter entering this captivating world of make-believe. But she often doesn't just want to play by herself, she wants me to join in. She will say, each and every day, "Mummy i have an idea! Lets be princesses together! (or some other imaginary character).Want to play?"

For some unexplainable reason, when she asks me this I am suddenly more tired than ever. My stomach becomes a knot. My head starts to throb. My legs feel heavy. All I can think is, "Please, anything but imaginary play! I have so much else I want to do right now. I don't want to be a bloody princess in my rice cereal-stained pajamas and ugg boots. I just want a shower!"

Nowadays I find it very difficult to enter into this imaginary world. I see the pile of clothes that need to be washed and toys that need to be put away, but my three year old sees a mountain we have to climb, and a rainbow castle of toys to explore.

However, lately I have decided to say "yes" more often to her requests to enter into this world of her imagination, and of my own aging make-believe mind. Overtime I have come to realise that the longer I actually choose to stay in the game, the easier it becomes. I start to get into my princess
character. I slowly forget about my badly-in-need-of-a-wash pajamas, my oily hair and the messy house. Together we sleigh dragons, take care of babies, dance for the king and drink cups of tea. Before long we are laughing hysterically and lost in our own little world.

Children naturally know how to escape reality, blur the boundaries between what's real and imagined and see life in every animate object. By escaping to their imagination kids can control a part of their world. I recently read that over the last seventy-five years a number of researchers have found imaginative play to be a vital component to the normal development of a child. It fosters things such as curiosity, social skills, communication, empathy and problem solving skills.

Apart from imaginative play beneficiating our kids, I also think it benefits us as parents. It's important to know how to switch off from our busy, messy reality and remember once again what it feels like to be a child - freed by imagination.

So next time your child asks you to play an imaginary game, give it a try. I guarantee you won't want to leave your castle, cake and prince to return to your home of mess, lists and routines for good while longer.

 



 

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