Turns Out, it’s Free Play that Feeds Your Child’s Cognitive Development
by Frieda B. Herself author, Renata Bowers
So I’ll admit it right off the bat. I’m biased.
I’m a proponent of books, board games, pretend play and plenty of downtime in a child’s life. And I’m leery – really leery – of anything that comes along to lure these away. Especially during those precious, impressionable years before society and peer pressure really start nudging kids to grow up (which, these days, seems to be somewhere around 8 or 9 years old).
There are those who will disagree with me.
They’ll argue that a strenuous regiment of extracurricular activities (sports, academics, arts, social groups) are good for a child; boosts their skills, their sociability, their future prospects for college acceptance and scholarship. They’ll argue that a daily diet of video games, television and technology is harmless, really – possibly even beneficial – as it prepares a child for the inevitable future of technology into which he is stepping.
And my heart saddens when I hear these arguments. I long for the tree fort and rope swing of my childhood, the hours I was left to fill with naught but my creativity and imagination. And I wonder if I’m just not getting it, if I’m just one of those folks who are so tied to “the old days” that I can’t adjust to the present.
But then, there it was. A gift. On the pages of the The Wall Street Journal this past December 22nd, 2009.
A headline that immediately gave me hope, and a story which since has given me a bit sturdier platform on which to stand: “The Power of Magical Thinking: Research Shows the Importance of Imagination in Children’s Cognitive Development” .
The article begins, “For years, imagination was thought of as a way for children to escape from reality, and once they reached a certain age, it was believed they would push fantasy aside and deal with the real world. But, increasingly, child-development experts are recognizing the importance of imagination and the role it plays in understanding reality.”
Paul Harris, a development psychologist and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who studies imagination (note to self: must meet this man), is quoted in the article as saying, “The imagination is absolutely vital for contemplating reality, not just those things we take to be mere fantasy.“
The article goes on to details studies that have been undertaken to better understand the role imagination plays in the cognitive development of a child. It concludes by stating, “Fantasy play is correlated with other positive attributes. In preschool children, for example, those who have imaginary friends are more creative, have greater social understanding and are better at taking the perspective of others… This is a strength of children, their ability to pretend…They can fix the problem with their imagination.”
So, hey. Maybe I do live in a fantasy world of my own, befriended by a fictional girl named Frieda B. who uses her boundless imagination to be whomever, whatever, wherever she wants to be.
But I like it here. And creating this world of imagination for kids truly is good for them, and for me.
I’ve always believed that.
Now I have real grown-up experts to prove it.
Melissa’s Note: I LOVE this! Thank you so much Renata for this wonderful post on play and imagination. Just like your heroine, Frieda B., you remind us all to dream, imagine and be free-to-be!
Interested in Frieda B. Herself? Read my review of Frieda B. Herself on Bookmarkable and enter the contest to win a copy. Then, order the book on the Frieda B. website. Write Imagination Soup in the comment box during the month of May and you’ll get a free 4″ x 5″ Frieda B. magnet with your book. All books come with free shipping, no tax and the opportunity to request a signature from the author.
*Frieda B. Herself is illustrated by Michael Chesworth. Images above are images from Frieda B. by Michael Chesworth.