Role Modeling Imagination

This is why, they said, teachers have to step in. “Teachers have to teach play intentionally,” Leong said.

They suggest showing children videos of people interacting in various settings — such as bakeries where cashiers talk to customers or medical offices where doctors treat patients. (They described real-life field trips too, but pointed out that they aren’t always possible.) These videos, they said, give children new ideas for play, leading them to re-enact what they saw — with and without guidance from nearby preschool teachers.

Media Minds: Focusing on creative playtime (and using video to do it)

This is a great post for anyone intrigued by the imaginative arts (ooo sounds so sophisticated when presented like that, yes?). 

Role modeling behavior you wish your child to present is huge.  And connections are made when a parent can “let go” enough of their own play patterns to slip back in time and dive into youthful, innocent play patterns.

I remember working with the ET (extended time) kids at the after school park district program a few years back.  It was during the blustery Chicago winter holidays – 100 some kids cooped up in the cafeteria & gymnasium of their elementary school with camp counselors, while their parents were at at work.  Coloring, movies, video games, basketball, etc – such things get really tiring and boring for a kid.  A little girl by the name Lauren had a pink Disney cell phone, and she was sitting in a bean bag chair on her own, play-calling her mom to pick her up.  Joining her, I asked to borrow the phone, and proceeded in entertaining her by calling random fictional characters, like Cinderella, Prince Charming, Mulan, and Prince Philip (my favorite of the Disney princes from Sleeping Beauty… he was the only one with a personality).  I conjured up silly little stories between the characters, and Lauren chimed in.  We were solving friendship rifts, and helping pick out holiday gifts for the various character’s families.  Oh, and of course, Prince Philip proposed to me – it was a very endearing proposal let me tell you.  Naturally I had to let poor Philly Poo down since I had great occupational plans with my life, and I was still far too young, lol.  Lauren loved all of it.  And about 1/2 way through this play it dawned on me… man, this is GREAT.  It was like stretching after a long cramped flight.  A window to child-like freedom that I hadn’t opened in a long time. 

I fell into the imaginative play.  I wasn’t just presenting a play for her (entertainment is a necessity in childcare) – I was playing too, and I was getting a kick out of it.  I had forgotten just how much fun playing “pretend” was.  I mean…  I use my imagination regularly, of course (I can’t control it, which is sad sometimes) – but in more appropriate adults ways… like writing (but then again, it’s me presenting, not actually playing within, and it’s very singular), or in sarcasm goofiness with others (which always has that protective wall up to help give casual aloofness necessary for sarcasm goofiness). 

For Lauren – it was a chance to have a bit of validation with play.  An adult participated in playing pretend with her!  Real pretend, not half-arsed pretend, like when adults sit down and bounce a half-dressed Barbie – whose head isn’t even facing the right direction – around using a high-pitched character voice (which, I swear, is like babysitting 101: The Fake Play; barbie bouncing is then followed by a bored sigh, and then the babysitter spends the rest of the time dressing the barbies and brushing their hair, but not actually participating in peer-to-peer play).  Kids need respect too.  They need the validation that what they’re do is correct/fun/worthy. 

We spend so much time worrying that kids are growing up too fast.  But how often do we actually VALIDATE the moments when kids are actually doing sweet, innocent kid-like things, like playing pretend?  Seriously – think about it.  When was the last time you saw an adult actually pay some attention to their child as they played with the salt & pepper shaker at a restaurant, or built a house out of paper?  And when that happens – do you ever see an adult take a vested interest in playing too? 

Perhaps it’s healthy to let kids just be.  I just know that I’m going to encourage my kids to be as imaginative as possible, and if that makes them the “weird” kid, then ROCK ON.  At least they’re happy and armed with the best tools to be innovative when they’re older.

I think that’s why I love, LOVE, virtual worlds (for all demographics) so much.  Very often you see people fully immersing themselves (collectively) in play patterns, and pushing the imaginative limits.  That’s got to be healthy. 

It will be great to see all the research coming out in the next few years regarding the virtual play & how it affects imagination/play patterns/child health.

When was the last time you actually (honestly now) ‘pretended’?  Care to share?  I’d love to hear! 

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return” – Leonardo da Vinci

“I know nothing with any certainty but the sight of stars makes me dream” – Vincent Van Gogh

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