Monday, March 27, 2017

Parenthood: Week 197 – Ollie’s Imagination

Yesterday evening before his bath, Ollie was furiously dancing around the living room. He was spinning around, jumping from foot to foot, and wildly swinging his arms around. At the same time he was making growling and exploding sounds. There was a clear intent in the way Ollie was moving. Nothing seemed random in his movements.

“Ollie, what are you right now?” My wife asked. Ollie stopped moving and said plainly, “I’m a palm tree.”

Ollie falling into his own world of imagination is one of the wonderful things about having a three year-old. There are times when Ollie dances around or talks to himself while playing toys for extended periods of time, sometimes as long as fifteen minutes living in his own imagination. Often times Ollie is emulating things he sees in films or books and other times Ollie’s imagination takes him to other worlds that he creates.

Ollie has been really into the film, Moana. He has some toys and stuffed animals of characters from the film. While he loves these toys, the objects he uses to dress up like these characters he cherishes just as much. Ollie uses a lego block with an plastic antenna piece stuck on top of it as his version of Maui’s hook. When Ollie asked for Maui’s necklace, I found a strap used to hold a recorder and tied some kitchen utensils to it.  Ollie proudly wore it whenever he played as Maui, which was almost every day for a week.

I get that seeing a kid with a lego antenna with a spatula, and a spoon tied to his neck, dancing around may look strange, and it does. However, it’s this kind of play that shows the incredible development of a child’s mind and the power of imagination.

I see it in other places. Ollie’s ability to pay attention to audiobooks and his ability to follow longer and more complex books also is a display of his developing imaginative skills. Also, when we talk to Ollie about things happening in the future, we see him transition better which is a sign of his ability to imagine what is beyond the present.

As Ollie began to twirl around, he explained that the palm tree that he was representing was reacting to an erupting volcano. It was being thrown around in the blast. He was representing an object as well as an event and a story. To help himself understand this, he physically represented what his brain was imagining through dance and sound. Even though it may have looked random and strange, there was real and very important work going on as he continued to spin and flail across the room.

A child’s imagination is a wonderful thing. It doesn’t always make sense to the rest of us and it doesn’t have to.  Sometimes it's just a kid being silly but often it is so much more.

Give your kid the space to dance wildly and make weird sounds.  It is just this work that will strengthen the muscle of imagination that come adulthood may solve a problem in a way that only your child can imagine.

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