Is Imagination Disappearing In Children?

It is easy to assume that with the increase in academic structure and teaching to tests that the ability of children to imagine is disappearing.  Even with today’s children being busier than ever it seems that imagination is actually surviving based upon new research.  Psychologists at Case Western Reserve University have found that the imaginations of children have not suffered – in fact, it appears to have increased.

The findings were especially surprising for psychologists Jessica Dillon and Sandra Russ who expected the opposite outcome when they analyzed 14 play studies that Russ conducted between 1985 and 2008.  But as they report in “Changes in Children’s Play Over Two Decades,” an article in the Creativity Research Journal, the research data told a story differing from common assumptions.  First, children’s use of imagination in play and their overall comfort and engagement with play activities actually increased over the three decades of data.  Second, the results suggested that children in more recent studies expressed less negative feelings in their play.  Lastly, the capacity to express a wide range of positive emotions, to tell stories and to organize thoughts stayed consistent across the studies.

In an interview about the study Russ stated that “even with the lack of time to play, children, like some other forms of higher mammals, have a drive to play and always will find ways to do it”.  As new stimuli, like video games and the Internet, have become a part of everyday life, Russ suggests that children might actually gain cognitive skills that support imagination from using technology rather than from acting out situations in play.  Russ said future research will need to focus on whether acting out emotions and creating stories in play is as important as it once was in helping children to be creative since more recent studies are showing less negative feelings which actually had been found in the past to support creativity.

In summary, Russ advises that even though children tend to have less time for play, we still need to try and make time for it, since it helps children develop emotional and cognitive abilities. It is also important to remember the value of reading since reading feeds a child’s imaginations and provides a safe environment for a child to explore people and ideas as they form their own opinions.

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1 Comment

Filed under Education, Improved Learning, Parenting

One response to “Is Imagination Disappearing In Children?

  1. I find this very true! Schools cutting down on or cutting out recess altogether. Shuffling kids from here to there with no time in between for extracurricular activities. Piles of busy work disguised as “homework”. But a bigger concern of mine is that parents and even doctors are pushing kids into adulthood too early. Some children who have excellent imaginations are made to feel strange and not as smart as their peers because playing outside with a stick as a sword would be considered “infantile” or not standard for their age. It’s sad to see it go. Like this article suggest, hopefully they can find an outlet and adapt to the new media at hand.

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