Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”
– Albert Einstein
Carousel of Languages’ unique foreign language program for infants, toddlers, and young children is based on decades of research demonstrating the immense intellectual and educational benefits of early exposure to more than one language.
It’s about so much more than words. We focus on the whole child. We know that young children require positive, loving social experiences—real human connection—for brain growth and language development.
Carousel’s learning environment–whether in-person or online–is warm, nurturing, and playful, full of delights for the young child. Our methodology and exquisite learning materials are designed to spark curiosity and inspire the imagination.
We encourage our tiny students to take the lead—to ask questions, offer ideas, explore, use all their senses, try new words and sounds, and to be creative in all sorts of ways!
All children are creative! Developing the imagination isn’t only important for children who show interest in artistic pursuits.
Creativity is widely regarded as a vital 21st-century skill, necessary to innovate in business, science, technology, and more. It has risen dramatically in recent years as an attribute that employers most seek in an employee.
“The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report predicts creativity, innovation and ideation will be key skills for the workforce of the future.”
There are so many simple and enjoyable ways for parents to ignite a child’s imagination and nurture their innate creativity.
Here are 10 of our favorite tips from the experts!
1. Read, Talk, and Tell Stories
Read, read, read!
“Reading is one of the best ways to foster imagination. The more we read, the better we can build up and expand our knowledge. We can be open to new ideas and have an understanding of new things. Reading helps us practice imagination by letting the words describe a certain image while the reader manipulates the picture in the mind. This practice strengthens the mind as it acts like a muscle.”
It’s also important to tell your own invented stories to your child. Let them see that you can make it up as you go along—imagination can take you anywhere, and it’s full of twists and turns, surprises and fun!
Start a story and take turns telling the next bit; let your child make up the ending or give you a story idea or opening line.
Talk with your child all the time as you go about daily life. In regular conversation, ask open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, or even a single word. There’s no right or wrong answer, but your child needs to think, describe, provide details, articulate opinions, and express feelings. This kind of question taps into the imagination, nurturing creativity, speech and language development, independent thinking, and memory.
“What do you think will happen next in the story? What could we do with this paper towel tube? What does that cloud look like to you?”
2. Unstructured Time, Unstructured Play
Unstructured time for play—especially active play—is vital for your young child’s mind and body. Experts advise that children need twice as much unstructured playtime as structured activities each day.
According to “The Benefits of Boredom,” an article from Melbourne Child Psychology,
“Boredom gives children an inner quiet that helps with imagination and self-awareness.
Creative processes can stimulate interests that will stay with the child for life. Children develop creative skills when they have to come up with solutions to boredom.”
3. Offer Open-Ended Materials, Toys, and Activities
Did you ever give a young child the perfect gift only to discover they were most excited about the box, wrapping paper, and bow?
Free play with open-ended toys and materials nurtures your child’s creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills. Cardboard boxes, magnetic tiles, building blocks, sand, water, mud, modeling clay, and play dough are free form and encourage experimentation and fresh ideas.
Keep lots of safe, non-toxic art materials around. Choose plain paper—the bigger the better—over coloring or activity books most of the time. Washable paint and markers, crayons, glue, safety scissors, scraps of fabric and yarn, pom-poms, craft eyeballs, paper bags, sequins… the possibilities are endless.
Have a stash of dress-up clothes and accessories. You don’t need to buy a lot of fancy costumes. A special superhero or character costume is fun, but with a red scarf or dishtowel that becomes a cape, they can be anything! Clean out your closet and let the kids go wild. A trip to the thrift or dollar store will yield all sorts of treasures.
All these open-ended activities are great for solo play—which children need—but they also promote interaction and collaboration with parents, siblings, and friends. What do you want to make/build/play? Castle? Rocket ship? Dinosaurs? Can we do it together?
When children talk together and play pretend, they not only soar into imaginative life, but they also practice cooperation, problem-solving, and conflict resolution, and develop language and vocabulary.
4. Turn Off the Screen
When you’re a busy parent, it’s tempting to use a device as a babysitter. We understand! Read our article about Healthy Digital Life for guidelines on your child’s screen time.
(Hint: Some is ok, and some kinds are better than others!)
The experts at Parents.com say,
“Encourage active, not passive, pursuits. Think of imagination as a muscle: If it’s not exercised, it will atrophy. Children engaged in passive activities –watching TV, for instance – are taking in other people’s images and ideas instead of coming up with their own, says Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., an educational psychologist and author of “Failure to Connect” (Simon & Schuster, 1998). Ordinary activities such as reading aloud or taking a walk outside do much more than television to develop a child’s creative side….“
5. Go Outside and Wander like Wordsworth
The Romantic Poets were right—Nature inspires and expands our imaginations, naturally!
Drifty outdoor daydreams and free play are wonderful for your child’s creativity, and offer a wealth of other cognitive and social-emotional benefits.
Lie on your back and watch fluffy clouds float through the big blue sky; what shapes do you see? Peer into the night sky full of twinkling stars, and the glowing moon. Stare up into the leafy, light-dappled canopy of a huge tree—or climb into its branches! Listen to the crunch of leaves beneath your feet. Watch dust in a sunbeam, or snowflakes sifting down. Throw stones into a lake or puddle and follow the ripples as far as you can see. Run free through an open field, or get down on your knees and observe a little bug climbing a single stalk. Sit and listen to ocean waves, put a seashell to your ear. Pick up a stick and slay a dragon, stir a pot of stone soup, go fishing…
6. Let Kids Figure Things Out for Themselves
It’s hard to resist the urge to show our kids how to do everything, when we may know the easier, faster, or “right” way. But when children don’t know how to do something, experimentation and discovery develop their creativity, reasoning, problem-solving ability, confidence, self-regulation, motor skills, and more.
Whenever possible, let them think and try for themselves. Keep things safe by offering good choices, but give freedom and agency.
7. Model Creativity and Imaginative Thinking
You don’t have to be a professional artist to model living creatively! Make sure your child sees you taking up new hobbies, inventing recipes, playing your guitar for fun. Dance, paint the living room, plant a garden, write a poem or song. Be free, unafraid of failure, quick to laugh, eager to try again, willing to look silly sometimes.
8. Do Imagination-Stimulating Things with Your Child
It can be as simple as building a sandcastle or making a feast of mud pies, having a Lego battle, drawing in sidewalk chalk, playing dress-up together, or taking a nature walk. Let your child take the lead, then just go with it. The more you dive in and allow yourself to get wonderfully lost in imagination and play, the more they will too.
9. Focus on Process Rather than End Product
It’s not about being the next Picasso or Shakespeare. Praise your child for creating, for her huge imagination, for dreaming big. Ask her to tell you about what she’s made or played or written, and celebrate that.
10. Worry a Little Less About What the House Looks (or Sounds) Like
Kids are messy and noisy. Creativity is disorderly. The imagination needs to color outside the lines…and dump all the clothes out, and mix the modeling clay colors, and spill glitter everywhere.
Provide a safe space for joyful chaos. Try not to hover over the festivities with the vacuum cleaner and a bottle of disinfectant. (It’s hard. We know.)
Afterward, play a healthy game of
“Everybody Clean Up!”
"There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination"
– Willy Wonka
Song by Anthony Newley / Leslie Bricusse
Based on the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by renowned children’s author, Roald Dahl