By Rachel Lower
I am grateful to my parents for giving me an imagination. I still use it, even as an adult. While many adults are impatiently looking at there watches and twiddling there thumbs, I am dreaming up an entertaining story in my mind to pass the time. When many are faced with the demand that they think up something new and creative, beads of sweat start rolling down their cheeks. Myself? I would jump on the opportunity. The gift of an imagination is not only valuable as a child but equally as useful as an adult. The toddler years are vital in giving your child this gift.
Reading a bedtime story was a nightly ritual at my house. The more books, the more variety in them, the merrier. A parent can even make up stories for their child. That provides an example and encouragement for children to start thinking up their own stories. I remember my mother sitting on a chair, me on the floor, her writing down a story I was vocalizing. It was about spaghetti, among other things. She made a book out of it. I drew the illustrations. I still have that book. One Christmas someone bought me a tape recorder. I spent a lot of time recording my stories with it.
I took some paper and some straws, some tape and some markers. What did I make? Birds! Many birds! I do not remember if they actually looked like birds, but that is what they were. I put them out in the backyard. What happened the next day? They were gone. They flew away. I found one later, by the side of a nearby street. He was dead. All my other birds seem to have made it. Pretend birdies, one of many imaginative instances I remember. These skills can be fostered by example. Try having a "craft hour" a few times a week, and soon they will be making pretend birdies. Teach you toddler to build a castle with the couch cushions, a blanket, and other props and they will do it continually for years to come. I used to line up all the encyclopedias and put each of my stuffed animals and my real dog Misty behind one. Then I would take out a book. "Time for class!" This kind of fun lasted throughout my childhood. Pretend is always a blast. Play pretend with them often, to help them learn to share the fun when friends there own age are part of the game.
So what about toys? We spend a lot of money on toys every year. Do we really need so many? I remember more, or to the least the same amount, of the toys I made compared to the ones my parents bought me. So what did that hundred dollars pay for each Christmas? I enjoyed paper dolls more than Barbie. I enjoyed taking my tiny hot wheels out on the dirt pile and making roads more than my neighbors battery run 'hundreds of dollars later' car. Toys are fun, but I have to wonder if many of us over do it, especially during the toddler stage. Where is the imagination in constructing musical instruments for a band out of pots and pans, a parts set with whistles, and some bean filled cups if we already have a drum set, child guitar, sax and flute? Why make a castle when we already have a five hundred dollar plastic one, mote included, in our room? How did they ever survive with dolls made out of corn husks? The ability to make a toy out of what in some of our eyes seems to be 'practically nothing' is applaudable in a child. I remember playing with my markers, giving them names and having them interact. A marker? "Meet Fred the blue marker." They were actually entertaining markers. By all means, buy some toys! Just don't bury your child up to the neck in them! On a similar note, 'all TV and no play makes Jack a dull boy'.
Enjoy the show! You child has been talking in a strange accent for three days now. Get annoyed and yell? Nah. They are only using this gift of an imagination. Enjoy it. Play the same game. That castle sure is a mess, is it? We can still have clean up, but for the duration of pretend castle time it is going to be a mess in there. This is all part of being a parent. It can be messy. We just have to learn to not take the small things so seriously. So, as 'Rocky', my imaginary friend used to not say, "That's it folks"...
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