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Imagine: ALL the people

How often do your children get to spend time alone without any outside stimulus? When was the last time they had to draw on their own resources to entertain and motivate themselves?

Timetables for children these days can be hectic; after-school clubs, the pressures of school work, social media and other screen-based activities all vie for their attention and focus. It’s not so often that they are left alone to their own devices free from these distractions. And the same is true of us.

However it’s an important skill to be able to be alone without wigging out, and one of the key tools for this is an active imagination.

I don’t mean in the clichéd way of inventing a fantasy world to occupy and play in - although this is perfectly valid - I mean in a much more prosaic fashion. Being alone is a cinch as long as you can keep yourself occupied, it’s when one can’t think of anything to do, when that void starts to open, that problems start to occur. With all the various jobs we have to complete in any given week or day, it’s difficult for us to remember what having empty hours to fill can feel like, but children don’t share our seemingly endless list of things to do and can struggle to find the sense of quest and purpose that gives life meaning.

A functioning imagination is vital here, just to be able to invent an activity to fill the day. Practising invention, pulling something out of nothing is even an element in day to day conversation, and this is slightly altered when so much communication happens via the written word, where one has the opportunity to re-write and edit until certain that you’re saying just what you want to. The inherent risk in just blurting out words is reduced, and the ability to think on the spot fails to be exercised.

So play games with your children that challenge and encourage their creative thought. Whatever the age group, there are ways to help them flex those inventive muscles, and thinking of them together will enhance your imaginative skills too.