I have spent time trying to pinpoint the contributing factors that fed my imagination as a kid. There are a few things that contributed: I was read to a lot as a child, and then read a ton as I got older. I played outside a lot. When I was 12 my family embarked on a 6-month road trip in a fifth-wheel trailer. We explored forests, played in rivers, roamed fields, and even dug for clams in the mud flats.
But I think the real reason I had a healthy imagination that has continued to thrive in adulthood is that I had TIME. Like any good thing, imagination takes time to develop and thrive. As a homeschooled kid, I had time to play with my siblings and friends, time to build forts, time to read, time to write, time to dream. I also had enough years to be a kid and time to graciously grow up. My parents did not rush my childhood. They never put any pressure on me to grow up. I also was not pressured by peers to grow up. And I am so thankful for that.
I believe part of my job as a parent is to protect the childhood of my kids. This goes beyond basic protection of their bodies. It includes their minds and hearts.
One way I protect their childhood is by pacing their exposure to life in a healthy way. For example, we’re very conservative with what our kids watch, what games they play, which books they read and at what age they do all this. We also don’t keep our kids super busy with outside activities. We prioritize down time at home, and time for them to play and think and just be.
When it comes to feeding my kids’ imaginations, I have to do a shout-out to our local kids’ Discovery museums. Through the years it’s been a great place for us all to exercise our imaginations. I love watching my kids whip up gourmet dishes of noodles with grapes and lettuce in the pretend kitchen. Or dig for dinosaur bones in the jungle. Or create works of art with recycled materials in the craft center.Santa Maria Discovery Museum and San Luis Obispo Children’s Museum