The Role of Imagination in Learning - Best in Class Education The Role of Imagination in Learning - Best in Class Education

The Role of Imagination in Learning

May 29, 2023
May 29, 2023

Tea parties, imaginary friends, superheroes, and dollhouses are the happy pastimes of childhood. Whether you’re marveling over your little one’s creativity or feeling frustrated because action figures are using your shoes as their cars, there’s no denying that imagination is a vital part of childhood. 

Imagination helps children learn about the world around them, expand their ideas, and problem-solve. The better their imagination is, the more readily they can understand complex community and social concepts. Although educators and researchers haven’t always understood the role of creativity in learning, experts are continually uncovering how this childhood behavior helps us grow.  

What Is the Role of Imagination in Learning? 

From a very young age, imagination plays an essential role in our development. According to psychologists, creative thinking and play can help us in nearly every aspect of our lives, from expanding language skills to developing empathy. However, how we use our imaginations changes throughout our lives.  

Early Childhood

As early as 18 months, toddlers begin to demonstrate imaginative play. For example, they may rock a baby doll or pretend to drink from an empty teacup at this age. Usually, in solitary or parallel play, they use their imaginations to mimic what they observe people doing around them. 

As toddlers grow into preschool-aged children, their imaginative play becomes more complex and socially engaged. They may pretend to:

  • Go on shopping trips.
  • Cook and serve food.
  • Give each other haircuts (Hopefully, these remain imaginary, and no real scissors are involved!). 

These cooperative play activities involve shared imagination, and this skill is associated with strong emotional intelligence. Shared-imagination play requires and fosters communication and cooperation with peers. Children at this age also begin to understand the unwritten social rules accompanying these everyday interactive events. 

When children pretend to go to a restaurant, for example, they are beginning to understand the process of this common life activity. First, they are seated at a table; then, a server will take their order. They may also practice using different words and phrases, using play to develop an extensive vocabulary. 

You may be thinking, “This seems great, but none of these skills seem to support academics. Why is imagination so crucial to learning?” 

Read on to see how imagination plays into later learning.

Middle Childhood and Teen Years

As children get older, their imagination takes on a different role. While they may still engage in pretend play with their friends for a while, the play of their younger years will eventually phase out. However, they can now apply the imaginative skills they’ve gained to academic learning. 

  • Reading – When reading a narrative, the student will be better able to imagine the characters, the setting, and the action. In addition, they can “hear” the characters’ dialogue and better appreciate subtle details. 
  • Understanding History – Have you ever wondered why some people become history buffs while others don’t seem to click with the subject? Children with solid imaginations will better understand the chain of events leading to a significant time in history and imagine how a conflict or invention, for example, affected people. 
  • Imagining Science – When discussing imagination, science isn’t always the first subject that comes to mind. However, when students learn about scientific processes that we don’t see every day, like microscopic cell behavior, chemical reactions, or physics, imagining those processes can help the child grasp the concept much faster. 
  • Creating Art – When a student is painting, drawing, or sculpting, they must first use their imagination to design their artwork and plan their process. 

Encouraging your child’s imagination and leaving downtime in your family’s schedule for them to go wherever their mind takes them is one way to set a child up for academic and social success. 
For additional support, especially in English and math, contact Best in Class today to see how we can help your child meet their educational goals while also stimulating their imagination!

Imagination helps children learn about the world around them, expand their ideas, and problem-solve.