I have mentioned The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland previously. It really seems to me to be a very important book for parents and other caregivers. I applaud her strong focus on doing things for and with children that will help them to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults – who are seekers of satisfaction in life. (She is speaking of the kind of satisfaction that comes from doing work we enjoy and energetically pursuing goals and dreams).
It turns out that we can start the ball rolling in this direction for the kids in our care by facilitating lots of imaginative play during their early years. Things as simple as empty boxes, pots and pans, or a bowl of water provide excellent stimulation. Later on, toys that promote free play (in any direction the child chooses) are especially great. Art experiences can also lead to the creation of invented worlds. All of these things promote healthy brain (including brain chemical) development.
Many times kids will jump in and engage in this kind of play on their own. Sometimes they will need a little help getting started. (We might say something like, "Hey – I think I will go for a cruise on this sofa boat. Ooh – I need to watch out for that big wave!")
Often, we parents have to remind ourselves of the need to tolerate productive messes and noise, right? It is also very important (for building what Sunderland calls the seeking system) to avoid being overly critical.
Please see the Message of the Month for March for an important quote from Mr. Rogers on the subject of imaginative play.
Understanding some of the scientific aspects of brain development related to imaginative play is a relatively new thing, but knowing how much children thrive on it is not. Here is an excerpt from a poem (Block City) by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
Let the sofa be mountains, the carpet be sea,
There I'll establish a city for me:
A kirk and a mill and a palace beside,
And a harbor as well where my vessels may ride.
I know that you are encouraging imaginative and dramatic play with your children and here is a picture to prove it. Thank you Tamara Huff!