The Importance of Imagination for Children and How Magic Develops It
I have often described the purpose of art as giving people the chance to make sense of our place in the world, ask questions we would not otherwise have asked and appreciate things we have never experienced before. Imagination is fundamental to that process. Imagination allows children to explore experiences they wouldn’t normally have. I think that’s vital, even for adults too. As children, imagination allows you to visit far off lands, fantasy worlds, meet historical characters or be a king or queen for the day. Think of it like your own personal Virtual Reality headset but for free. It really is limitless.
Developing a strong imagination is an essential part of a child’s development. As well as being fun for the child, it allows them to grow up as creative thinkers and people who innovate, solve problems, see things from another person’s point of view and have the freedom of mind to see the wider picture. When people talk about critical thinking skills, what they really mean is imagination.
The best way to learn something is to learn it yourself, and it’s the same with imagination. Storytelling and play provides opportunities for children to develop not only their imagination, but also their communication skills, their listening skills and improve their vocabulary. As the adults we need to make sure that we are providing active engaging experiences that the children want to be involved with.
Imagination and Magic
This is something which I bring out through my magic shows. I use storytelling to capture children’s interest, inviting them on a magical invented journey that takes place not only on stage, but also in their mind’s eye. This is taken further by actively engaging the children in the story. Children feel important when they feel helpful and so throughout my performances I encourage the children to be more than just a passive viewer and instead be actively engaged in the show.
Magic itself triggers the imagination in a way unlike other art forms. In the linked to article, Children’s Imagination Important for Cognitive Development, psychologist Jacqueline Woolley, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, studies the process of magical thinking, or how children learn to distinguish between what is real and what isn’t.
She and her team found that while children as young as three understand the concept of what is real and what isn’t, they hold onto their beliefs about some fantastical characters, like Father Christmas, and magicians. I have had children explain to me that magic isn’t usually real, but it can become real when a magician does it.
Ideally, the child will, like a little scientist, eventually discover the true reality, and therefore it could be suggested that parents might encourage this inquisitive nature ask, “Is there something you saw or heard that makes you think that was real, or wasn’t real?”
This is the approach I take for my magic. For me, the magic is real and it exists in that fantasy world. My character, the magician, can travel to that world and cause the magic to leak from that place to this world. Whether magic is actually real or not, I leave up to the children, and when asked offer a smile and ask, “What do you think?”