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How do books develop imagination in kids?

Updated: Jan 16

Watch the video to learn more about how books develop imagination in kids. Learn tips for how to use reading at home to increase your child’s imagination. The video goes over each age range as you watch. You won’t want to miss it. Also, if you want more fun games that encourage imagination, check this out!

Today was an incredibly fun day. I could watch my son create anything his little mind could come up with. We spread out everything he could possibly want to use for arts and crafts. Without prompting, I allowed him to figure out what he wanted to do with everything. We put away items he didn’t need for his project and set himself up for success with his ideas for what he wanted to create. Let me just stress “He, Him, and His” a little bit more. My son may only be four, but it is essential to let HIM see the outcome of his own imagination, critical thinking skills, and HIS own ideas.

By the end of the day, he had a giant letter decorated for his name’s sake. (We mailed it later the next day.) He completed a landscape art piece with a guy riding a bike up a hill. Then, finally, he created Aladdin’s secret hideout using a leftover box and some finger paint.

He continued to play in the box the rest of the afternoon. Aladdin’s secret hideout became a McDonald’s drive-thru, a bakery, and a construction site. There was no prompting, directions, or guidance, only fun and exploration. I was there to help, of course, but HE made the rules and plans and asked for what help he needed.

How do books develop imagination in kids

Why is Imagination so Important?

Let’s backtrack just a bit. The imagination is such a powerful thing. It’s a great idea to encourage your kids to develop their ideas from a young age. It will increase their problem-solving skills and help them to become critical thinkers. Critical thinking leads to many positives (Grades in school are not the least of these). Without imagination, we would have a very different world, don’t you think? When confronted with everyday problems, we must “imagine” something that could fix it. The invention of the wheel, the car, the fishing rod, and electricity were all “imagined” by someone once upon a time.

How do books develop imagination in kids?

Okay, now we have to backtrack a bit more… but I promise to get to the point! I’m sure some of you are asking, what does this have to do with literacy? Crafts are not necessarily “story time.” Wrong! What are we doing when crafting the perfect picture, creating a character out of a paper towel roll, or playing with playdough if not holding stories in our minds? I’m not saying we are drafting out the next Shakespearian play in our playdough worm roll, but we are imagining little stories. As I squish the playdough next to my oldest son, he often tells me who or what I just squished and why it was so important that I did (I am usually saving some other town or village from a nasty alien monster). And what do you think my son imagined when building and then playing with Aladdin’s hideout? He was building a story in his mind. These stories shifted as his play and crafting shifted, but understanding stories leads to a healthy imagination, which will lead to a love of reading. And we all want our kids to read more!

How do books develop imagination in kids

How does this happen?

When kids are little and listening to stories, they do not know how to separate reality from fiction. I can remember the first time each of my children gave a shocked gasp during a story and cried out, “Oh No!” and I would have to respond, “Don’t worry, it’s just a story. It’s not real.” They would nod and relax and listen to what happens next.

After listening to enough stories, they quickly learn to make their own. And through pretending to be the characters in the stories they love the most, they learn the trick of imagination. With each story they hear or read, they build their imagination tool box with more possibilities. Suddenly, spaceships, aliens, pirates, and mermaids are all possible. And what is an invention but the magical transition from the impossible to the possible?

When Imagination Becomes Critical Thinking

While books may begin the process of building imagination in our kids, it does not end there. Kids take their imaginations everywhere they go. They use their imaginations when playing with friends or siblings, eating at the dinner table, and even doing their chores. But the best time to practice imaginative critical thinking skills is craft time.

There is no better way to boost creativity than to get your kids a bunch of items to play with and go! Legos, arts and crafts, a cardboard box, a bunch of dolls… whatever you give them will decide how they want to play with these items and create stories and events you may never have thought of. I like to let my son choose an activity he wants to do and let him create the entire game. Sometimes, he needs a little help coming up with ideas, so I give him choices, and he takes my ideas and runs with them, bringing them to new levels I never would have imagined.

How do books develop imagination in kids

Modeling Critical Thinking

This is most likely not the first time you have read that modeling behavior is important for developing children, but it is! Kids like to copy and monkey see, monkey do… Always. So, while almost all kids have some imaginative bone in their body, not all kids think critically. Kids need to see us use our critical thinking skills so they can learn how to tap into their own. Our brains are automatically wired to figure things out independently (Watch a one-year-old say something for the first time). However, the act of critical thinking can grow or shrivel depending on how much or often it is used. If you have never asked your kids to take a string, a marker, and a ball of tape and make something that stands on its own… maybe show them how you do it before passing the challenge to them.


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