LITTLE THINGS ABOUT LITTLE ONES
"Really, this is too good to be true," "Oh, what a creative child," "So much of imagination has gone into that painting" or "Come on, use your imagination" are words we hear or use quite often depending on the situations our little ones push us in. When we look around us, some of the people we admire the most are creative and imaginative, whether it is artists, musicians, orators or designers. How did they get to be so creative? Where do they come up with those new concepts that dazzle the world?
Is it pure luck? Do we have to be born with it? Those are questions that have not been answered yet. But there are many ways in which we parents can help foster creativity and imagination in our children.
However, let us work in a different way today, and start by listing what we should NOT do as these are the ones none of us normally think of.
It will help if we do NOT push for the one right answer. We parents often have a right answer fixation. What is the right answer fixation? It is the belief that there is only one right answer, and that is based on what we, as an adult think. For example, when our child shows us a square shape with wings, that they have drawn and says that it is a plane, often our typical reaction is to say "No, baby, planes are not square". But that answer is based on our limited imagination. By imposing our limitations on children, we quell their imagination. We teach children the one right answer instead of the process of finding the answers and that doesn't help at all.
It will work wonders if we do NOT enforce conformity. Creative people are often individualists who do not fear to go where no one has ever been before. They try things. Sometimes they fail, but when they succeed, they succeed enormously.
For example, if our children want to eat tomato sauce with their ice cream, don't say NO immediately. Convince them to try it on a smaller portion and if they like the test sample, give them tomato sauce with their ice cream!! This also teaches children that some rules can be broken. It will teach them that they can imagine and do something, and succeed at it even when the people around them say NO. Some of the world's most successful businesses have been built by individuals who did not listen to the NOs they were hearing around them.
Now, here are some tips on we parents should do.....
¢ Books, books, books... expose your child to as many different books, stories and tales as possible.
¢ Let them scrawl, scribble, draw....most children love to draw, so let them, but always ask them what it is they have drawn and accept it for what it is.
¢ Do remember to get unstructured toys and sets because many toys these days come with detailed instructions that define even how children should experience them. This often restricts their ability to indulge in flights of fancy which is so vital to develop their imagination.
¢ Allow free play as children must be given time during the day to play as they please. Free play, allows them to choose what they want to do and how to do it.
Exposure to a variety of experiences is important for them to understand the diversity of human life and the endless possibilities.
One way to achieve this is through travel. It does not have to be foreign countries or even to faraway locations. Even if we just go out for a walk, we will find many things to talk with our children, irrespective of their age. Also let kids participate in various every day experiences - cooking, gardening, etc.
There is always a very fine line between allowing imagination to flourish and indiscipline & anarchy. Even parents find this hard to understand. It is important that a few, firm, well-understood rules be set, explained to children and then followed consistently. For example, you will want to say "No drawing on the walls, no banging on kitchen vessels" etc. This is also an important part of the learning process for any child. While we do want to enforce conformity everywhere, children also have to realize that there are rules and norms regarding safety, social interactions, hygiene etc.,, that must be followed.
A good mix of rules and non-critical, positive encouragement are essential for the child to have a good experience. If one or the other increases too much, the results become undesirable resulting in an unimaginative child or an indisciplined child.
Dr Gayatri Bezboruah is Professor of Paediatrics, Gauhati Medical College, Guwahati. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com