|Boys in the 1950s (Courtesy 'Chapel Hill Memories')|
The contrast between my childhood life in the 1950s and 60s and that of the average child in a middle-class western family is dramatically different. To some extent the difference is partly due to my working class roots and a degree of parental neglect, but most children's lives had more similarities to mine than differences. Childhood was very different and while there was a downside there were some advantages. One key difference worth noting is that children had a greater degree of freedom, time and 'space' to do many self-directed things.
Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child' suggests that one of the ways we kill children's imaginations is by never leaving them to plan their own time and work to their own agendas. We rarely allow space for them to dream up great schemes and projects, undertake 'great' adventures, and to plan and create things with other children or even adults. He suggests that if children are left to their own devices and spend time with other children they will create cultures of their own. By now every modern parent will be a little defensive and will list all the dangers of allowing children out on their own and the problems of kids forming gangs and so on. I'm aware of the dangers. I'm not for a minute suggesting that it's realistic for children to have the freedom I had as a child, nor do I suggest that we remove all planned activities from children's lives. But what I am suggesting is that we need balance and if we do provide space and time children's imaginations will be allowed to roam more freely.
|Brush Creek Today|
We began planning immediately for a re-match. But first there was the matter of a suitable home ground. There was no oval near Hill Street, but there was a paddock at the bottom of the street, near the creek. Could we build our own ground? The Brush Creek Football Club was born and its home ground conceived! We spent a whole weekend clearing and levelling the rough paddock, another building some goals (from tea tree trunks) and fitting nets made out of chicken wire. To top it off, I spent every afternoon after school for two weeks building a grandstand against a giant gum tree near the sideline. We never beat the 'Glendale Crew' in one of our grudge matches, but our soccer ground was the envy of our opponents and lived on for a number of years.
How can we encourage children's imaginative play today?
I quoted the great educational psychologist Jean Piaget in a previous post on 'Creativity' (here), who said:
“The principal goal of education is to create [people] who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done – [people] who are creative, inventive and discoverers."
|Above: Rebecca & Elsie create a beach boat to take them on a journey|
What children need is not new and better curricula but access to more and more of the real world; plenty of time and space to think over their experiences, and to use fantasy and play to make meaning out of them; and advice, road maps, guidebooks, to make it easier for them to get where they want to go (not where we think they ought to go), and to find out what they want to find out. (John Holt, 1981)
What are some simple ways we can foster this?
- Provide time for children to explore their world within the confines of a safe space that has supervised boundaries.
- Offer opportunities for both structured and unstructured play.
- Give fantasy an important place through books, film and inventive play situations.
- Create an environment that encourages the child to do things with other people where a non-school goal is shared.
- Try to enhance opportunities for children to explore their environment.
- Encourage deep learning of things that interest the child that will be the seedbed of 'great' projects (hobbies and special interests are a good start).
- Offer new experiences and situations that challenge children to find out, seek solutions and solve problems.
- Encourage learning, expression and exploration in situations that emphasize the generation of ideas, solutions and forms of expression that are divergent as well as convergent (see previous post for more detail).
"Alice laughed. There's no use trying,” she said: “one can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” ('Through the Looking Glass', Lewis Carroll)
Some posts on this blog that offer practical ideas to stimulate creativity
'The Dangerous Book for Boys' (HERE)
'The Daring Book for Girls' (HERE)
Other posts and resources:
'The Role of Adults in Children's Play' (HERE)
'Understanding and Developing Creativity' (HERE)
'Stifling Creativity: The School as Factory' (HERE)
'The Power of Simple Play' (HERE)
'Nurturing Creativity in Children' (HERE)
'Stories in a Box: Stimulating language, writing & imagination' (HERE)
'Firsthand Experience, Literacy & Learning' (HERE)