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5 Reasons You Should Let Your Kids Explore Their Imagination - Pip and Bean

Today on the blog we have a guest writer (aka someone I bribed to take over for a day by offering to do the dishes) Please enjoy/ overlook his nerdy references to things like "legend of Zelda" and "Spock" I find it endearing and sweet but most of the time have no idea what he is talking about.  His references about the importance of play in your child's life every day are legit though. So with no further ado, I would like to introduce the other half of our mom and pop shop and the luckiest man in the world (you know because, I am his wife) Brian Wolfe!

Parenting can be a grind.  Let’s face it, enforcing the house rules sucks.  Did you put away your dishes?  Have you read for 20 minutes today? Nobody believes you brushed your teeth, get back up there.  Sometimes I wish we could play “Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, spock” to see who’s turn it is to be the enforcer.

Here’s the thing though. While discipline and rules are important so that my kids don’t end up on some spring break video in the next 10-15 years, letting them play is just as important.

Playtime and imagination development are essential to more than just having fun as a kid. It strengthens the bond between you and your child. It also makes them happier, smarter, and develops their creativity.

When you think of the happiest times in your childhood, what do you think of?

Before The Legend of Zelda swallowed up my tween years I can remember about 20 different lego spaceships I made.  An no, the bricks didn’t have matchy-matchy color schemes. It did have some sweet lasers and cargo bays.  Just before school kicked off this week the kids built this huge lego...restaurant???? Yeah, I guess my kids version of a spaceship is a giant robot-alien restaurant equipped with a drive through and parking lot.

Lego Structure - Pip and Bean

We’re sending the picture to Lego magazine and crossing our fingers that it shows up next quarter.

It’s not always Legos. Somedays it’s talk-a-thems (our house phrase for making figures talk), somedays it’s just coloring.  One of the best parts of running a superhero cape company is occasionally it’s dress-up and we get to take turns saving the world.>

So playing with your kids makes them happy. That’s a no brainer. Kinda like giving them sugar makes them go bonkers and crash.  The crazy thing is that imaginary playing is just as important as math in a daily routine. Don’t believe me? Check my sources:

1. Imagination and creativity make kids smarter

In creativity studies dating back to the 1970’s, More recently, KH Kim a creativity researcher at William and Mary finds that kids today are less and less creative now than they used to be. Researchers also found that this impacts the child’s overall happiness, ability to solve problems, and inhibits their ability to produce new ideas.

The good news is that experts say we are all born with a certain level of creativity, we just have to nurture it. When kids explore their imaginations, they become more creative and self-reliant since they can imagine new solutions to problems.

Yes, that’s right. Letting your kids be the hero for an afternoon might lead to them going to college on a full scholarship.

2. It makes them happier

When it comes to the choice between homework and playtime, kids always choose playtime (at least mine always do).

Free play, where kids have unregulated playtime outside, is extremely important when it comes to happiness and development. Time playing outside helps children develop both physical skills as well as emotional skills. Obvious right? However, with the trend in public schools toward longer days and/or school years and less time on a playground to make room for more standardized testing preparation the time kids have at home to do this is even more critical.

Here in Williamsville, NY our kids didn’t even have a regular recess period last year (that’s changing this year).  They were dying to get outside and cut loose by the time school was out.  So when Harry  pretends to be DeJa Vue (superhero du jour), he’s not just burning off energy, he’s also imagining what superheroes would do and how they interact with others.

3. It strengthens the bond with the parents

While it’s important for kids to play with their peers, it is just as important for parents to get involved in playtime with their children as well. This one can be painful sometimes.  There’s only so many times I can be the bad ogre that gets stomped by the dinosaur and his panda bear friend before I’m going to go insane. Sometimes I set a timer. Seriously. It helps to put a bound on it so that when the panda’s super sonic rocket launcher puts me back in jail for the trillionth time, I can play along.

Parents who play with their children create a deeper emotional bond and it can also help the parent understand how their child is feeling. By putting yourself in a position to play with your children, they are more likely to express their emotions and also feel like you care about the things they care about.  Social workers use this trick all the time with kids to get them to talk about things that sometimes get bottled up.

4. It helps them imagine new possibilities and things they haven’t experienced

When we’re kids, something as simple as a tree fort can turn into a battleground that would rival the newest big-screen movie.

As we get older, we use our imagination like this less and less, but those skills stay with us. It enables us to go to work or talk with our family and see new solutions for our problems.

Without creativity, we wouldn’t be building cars that drive themselves, talk on the phone (that fits in your hand) with someone across the world, or be able to use the Internet. These were all invented by people who were able to imagine something new and get to work bringing it to life.

When it comes to subjects in school, an active imagination doesn’t just help a student find new solutions, it also helps them understand complicated issues.

When they need to imagine something like how electrons move around in a molecule, students with a better imagination can visualize how it all comes together.

5. Playtime helps kids develop their motor skills

Being creative and playing extensively also helps children build their motor skills. By needing to play catch, climb trees, or sprint, they develop their physical skills as well.

In 2012, when researchers monitored childcare centers, they discovered that only 2 to 3 percent of children spent their time playing vigorously. This is a sharp decline compared to past generations, and it’s important for parents to foster this kind of play at home if they cannot do it at school.

Motor skills help your kids become better when it comes to physical activities. The internet is a glorious thing, but using their bodies without getting injured improves their overall health. Active playtime also helps with that whole going-to-bed-on-time thing.

So whether it is donning a superhero cape, picking up that rowdy ogre figurine, or just getting out some coloring books, it’s not only good for the both of you, but it’s something you’ll both be talking about for years to come.

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