Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pure Imagination

N isn't doing preschool. My reason for not enrolling him is because I didn't want him over scheduled. I have him in Kindermusik, which is once a week for an hour, and he also does speech once a week for a half an hour. I felt like adding one more thing would be too much for a 4 year old.

Although I generally feel fine with my decision to not put him in preschool, I occasionally feel a little guilty. This feeling only comes when I hear of other moms who took their kids to preschool and whose kids loved it. I wonder if I cheated N on a great opportunity for him to learn and grow. I know I shouldn't compare myself, but it's so hard not to!

I had a wonderful talk with N's Kindermusik teacher, Ms. Susan, and she helped me see that I don't need to feel guilty. I value her opinion greatly because not only is she a wonderful Kindermusik teacher, but she also has a degree in child development, raised great kids of her own, and is constantly studying about children and their development- especially how the brain develops. She talked to me about how at N's age his imagination is going wild (boy is it ever!) and the best thing I can do is foster that even more. She gave me some suggestions on what I can do at home to help develop his little brain. I was happy that I already do some of them. Here they are:
  • Give him a pen/paints and a blank piece of paper- no lines that would inhibit his creativity
  • Give him play dough with no play dough accessories and let him sculpt to his heart's content (this is one of his very favorite things to do)
  • Let him go outside and explore the world
  • When reading, don't just read the story. Talk about what's going on, ask "what would happen if...", or make up a surprise new ending to see how he reacts
  • Make up stories
  • Talk about things and ask him questions, questions like: what's the weather doing today?

All these things encourage your child's brain to explore different possibilities, to branch out and make new discoveries.

Yesterday I put her advice to action. N was drawing and I sat down with him and drew my own picture. I drew a picture of a Christmas tree and started drawing presents of various sizes and shapes under the tree. He was, of course, very interested in my picture. I asked him what he thought was in the presents. It was so fun to watch him think. I could see the wheels turning as he thought of what treasure could be hidden inside the boxes. I can see that opportunities to do things like this with N are everywhere. I just have to pay attention to them.

N's imagination really is going wild right now. Sometimes it's not good because he imagines scary things and gets very worried if he doesn't know where I am (this I don't understand- we live in a very small house. I can't go far). But for the most part, I'm very glad he has such a vivid imagination because I know his brain is developing in wonderful ways. I love watching his imagination at work. I try to make sure I play with N each day, but I also try to make sure he has alone time to make his own fun. Ms. Susan helped me understand that doing that will help him so much right now. The more I encourage it the better off he'll be.

So, I'm not going to feel guilty anymore. If I was letting him sit on the couch and eat potato chips all the live long day then I would have good reason to feel guilty. Instead, his favorite things to do are drawing, sculpting play dough, making up stories with his toys, painting, and, of course, a movie no more than twice a day (I need a break sometime!) N's learning tons just by letting his imagination expand. Lets all help our kids grow by letting them use their imaginations and color outside the lines.

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