We are encouraged as parents to support and engage our children in creative and imaginative play. When using their imagination, children are able to express their own unique self, uninfluenced by the expectations and demands of outside sources. Imaginative play allows a child to experiment with their own thoughts, feelings and perceptions.
In some cases, the use of imagination to create a story can help a child learn how to deal with their feelings in a constructive manner. Take for example, the child that is afraid of monsters under their bed. They may create a story or play out an event where they are in control of the characters and can dictate the outcome to transform their feeling of being afraid into one of being in control.
Knowing that imaginative play is good for your child, does there ever come a point when there is too much imaginative play? Can your child's imagination actually do more harm than good if used in excess?
Potential Problems of the Overactive Imagination
Many people would agree that there is simply no such thing as too much imagination. There are some cases, however, where a child's extreme fantasy world might hinder their ability to deal with situations that occur in the real world.
For parents of a child with an overactive imagination, it may also be difficult to differentiate between made-up stories and events that really happen.
A friend of mine recently changed her son's preschool. When asked how his first day went, the story started out fairly normal with a description of normal school activities. Things got a little strange when the boy recalled going outside for playtime and described being thrown in the dumpster. And from there, the boy wove a tale that surely couldn't have happened.
In this case, it was obvious the story was a clear case of imagination. However, what if that same boy told a tale that was believable, yet untrue? This could cause a parent concern, especially in a situation where a new school and staff are involved.
An active imagination can be a great tool to help your child express and deal with a myriad of emotions. But when a child is unable to tell the difference between real events and imagined events, there is an opportunity for danger.
Balancing Imagination and Reality
Parents must learn how to help a child find the balance between imaginative play and real world events. We do not want to suppress our child's imagination but rather help them express their creative thoughts in a positive and constructive way.
This can be done through art work, where instead of simply telling a story or acting out an event, a child can turn their thoughts into a tangible object that exists in the real world. If you are worried that your child has an overactive imagination which may interfere with their ability to function in the real world, encourage activities such as painting, sculpting, drawing and other physical forms of art.
It is also recommended that exposure to television and other media is limited. According to a number of studies and resources, including LimiTV.com, television impacts neurological development, thinking skills and imagination. A natural reaction to too much TV time or video playing is less play acting and more imitation of what the child has seen on TV. Children cannot differentiate between what they see on TV and what happens in real life.
This can become especially dangerous when children are exposed to violence or conflicts on TV, which they then think they can act out in real life without understanding the real life consequences of such events.
Imagination is a good thing. If we as adults could tap into our imaginative side more often, the world would likely be a better place. Unfortunately for most people, with age comes more real life responsibilities which replace the creative and imaginative thought process. For this reason, children should always be allowed to express their imagination in a healthy and positive manner. All too soon the time will come when the real world will invade your child's fantasy world and replace it with a reality that is often filled with characters that even a made-up story couldn't create.