During the early years we know how great kids are with their imagination. A large chunk of their time devoted to pretend play or role play where one minute they are a mighty warrior and the next minute they transform themselves into a prehistoric dinosaur stomping through wilderness. Their world is filled with wonder, magic and imagination. As they enter school and the big world however, they are encouraged more to think critically and analyze information rather than think creatively. While critical thinking skills are important ,it is equally important to hold on to the creative side too.
One incident that clearly stands out in my memory was when my younger son entered Kindergarten. He is a little shy person by nature and was a boy of none to few words in school. During my first parent teachers meeting his teacher showed me a picture he had made in class which was colored completely in black crayon.” You should encourage him to use colors that resemble real life.” She pointed out and continued while I was trying to comprehend what exactly was the issue. ” like using peach for human skin and blue for sky. Your son uses colors which sometimes don’t pertain to the real world !”.I nodded still a bit confused but requested to have the picture which she gladly handed to me. After going home I called him and asked him what the picture was about and he said,” Oh this is a black panther walking in the forest at night!”. It made perfect sense to me and I never really bothered telling him what colors to use in his pictures.
Now I must point out ,I really valued the constant feedback my son’s teacher gave me about him which was more than usual due to him being tight lipped and shy and I made it a point to be in touch with her regularly through emails so I could help him flourish. “I’m having a hard time assessing him because he wouldn’t answer my questions!” she told me one time and as much as he was loud and vocal at home ,I had to help him come out of his shell while in a social setting. As much as I wanted to preserve the unique personality that my son was,I couldn’t deny the fact that in the real world ,he had to give tests and he had to meet social expectations! I had talked to him about it many times and he really didn’t have an answer for why he would not talk in school. I knew he was nervous and afraid and I had to find a way to help him overcome this mental block. I realized children are mostly fed on a regular diet of math and science which are considered more important that creativity is often pushed to the back burner.
Creativity doesn’t always mean painting or music. Its more a way of thinking . To find unusual ways to solve problems and look at the world. I knew I had to look at the world through his eyes in order to help him. A wonderful solution came to me as I watched him play his favorite game, role play! If I could get him to see the picture in his head, I knew it would instill belief and confidence in him that he was capable of voicing his opinion and communicating outside home just as he did at home! He already knew how to relax using calm.com so every night as he got ready to sleep, we played a little game. He would close his eyes and take deep breaths and I would name each body part and tell him to relax. Then I would tell him to see whatever I was talking like a movie. I would ask him to see himself walking into his class confidently. I would ask him to see himself starting a conversation and making friends. I would ask him to see himself raise his hand and share his opinion with his teacher and friends confidently. Before dropping him at school I would encourage him to do exactly as the pictures he saw in his head at night. After doing it for many nights , I noticed changes in him. He made two new friends! and his teacher informed me that she was starting to hear his voice! Over time he overcame his fear and was much relaxed in a social setting.
Teaching kids the skill of mental imagery became a valuable technique I started using in various scenarios .I read up about the benefits of mental imagery in kids which can be found here,power of a child’s imagination .Every night before my boys went to bed I would ask them how they felt about their day and five things they were thankful for about that day.If they were upset about something, I would make them see themselves holding a bunch of balloons in their hands.I would include the five senses and describe in detail the colors, sights, sounds and even smell they had to imagine.Then I would ask them to put their worries in the balloon and let it go one by one and watch it slowly float up, up and away until it disappeared. I found some wonderful imagery scripts online for kids that we could say to them in a soft calm voice while they relax and imagine.
I truly believe that teaching children creative techniques can prove to be a valuable tool for them to use to solve problems in life in unique ways .It can help them maintain an uplifting self image and give them the confidence that they are always in a position to change their life for the better! not to forget the added benefit of helping them keep themselves happy and always maintain a positive attitude in life.